Bengaluru: With the discovery of water on Moon in 2009, Chandrayaan-I made headlines world over. But less than a month later, Indian space scientists had lost all contact with the country’s first lunar probe. Until Friday, when eight years later, radar scientists of Nasa brought cheer to everyone at Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) when Chandrayaan-1 was spotted, orbiting the earth’s nearest astral neighbour, exactly where scientists had lost track of it.
The spacecraft, which was located by scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory with the help of a powerful ground-based radar, cannot be revived however, given its glitch-hit power system. Plagued by problems in power supply units controlling both onboard computers, it forced Indian scientists to move it away from the lunar surface to avoid excess radiation in 2009.
Chandrayaan-I can not send data
“We found that DC-DC converters manufactured by MDI Power, USA, did not meet the specifications resulting in the snag in power supply system. There’s nothing much we can do now without any power onboard as Chandrayaan-I can neither receive signals nor send data,” Prof. U.R. Rao, former chairman of Isro, who headed a committee which probed the failed mission, told this newspaper.
Though Prof. Rao and his colleagues anticipated the spacecraft to drift and ultimately crash into lunar surface a couple of years after losing contact, the latest discovery points to the fact that Chandrayaan-I has remain-ed at an orbit 200 km from lunar surface from the time the glitch wrought a premature end to the mission.
“There’s not much atmosphere over the Moon, almost as good as vacuum, so the spacecraft has not lost energy due to friction, and so continues in the same orbit. Our first satellite, Arya-bhatta, lasted about 15 years in space,” explained Prof Rao.
Nasa’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, one of the 11 instruments onboard Chandrayaan-I, and Isro’s Moon Impact Probe (MIP), discovered water on the lunar surface. Scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said it required “more detective work” to find Chandrayaan-I after they spotted Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
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