Monday, September 28, 2009

Failure of Chandrayaan lost opportunity for high-res data on lunar water

Heads-Up to Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc. "Scientists would have gathered higher quality data about lunar water if India’s Chandrayaan-1 had fulfilled its full mission at the moon, Aviation Week reports:

"M3 managed to map 90 percent of the lunar surface at low resolution before Chandrayaan-1 stopped transmitting signals from lunar orbit on Aug. 29, having completed 10 months of a planned two-year mission."

"Had the mission continued, M3 would now be gathering high-resolution data."

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) experienced thermal issues almost from the time Chandrayaan arrived in lunar orbit, in late 2008, after weeks of successful, precision maneuvers.

It is thought mission planners may have underestimated the thermal environment in lunar orbit.

Early in the low-orbiting science phase of the mission, Chandrayaan nearly reached it's thermal tolerance while orbiting over the day-lit side of the Moon's surface. The Moon has a noted low thermal conductivity, meaning that much of the heat radiation from the Sun is immediately reflected from its surface.

Flight managers reportedly compensated for this exposure of the most sensitive components of the vehicle through carefully planned maneuvers, finally raising the mission's orbit to 200 kilometers just weeks before suddenly losing all contact with Chandrayaan hours after a joint survey of a permanently shadowed crater in the Moon's northern hemisphere with the newly-arrived American probe LRO, last Summer.

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