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End of the orbit for Chandrayaan-1 by January 2010?

Divya Gandhi

Officials express doubts over technical failure of gyroscopes



Spectacular view: An image of the earth taken from 200 km above the lunar surface by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper onboard Chandrayaan and posted by NASA.

BANGALORE: Three international space agencies and scientific institutes that have their scientific payloads on board the moon mission Chandrayaan-1 will be told “unambiguously” to complete their data analyses “at the earliest,” a senior official at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told The Hindu.

In the backdrop of the recent star-sensor failure, the agencies will be given a window till January 2010 to collect all data they need as “they cannot take for granted” that the space craft will complete its two-year tenure, the official said.

Review in September

Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences — who have developed six scientific experiments on board the mission — have been called for a meeting here in September to review the mission.

The sensors, which were vital in keeping the spacecraft oriented to the moon, have been replaced by gyroscopes.

While ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair recently said that the Chandrayaan was “doing fine” and that the remainder of its two-year mission could be completed in gyro-mode, other officials were preparing pre-emptive measures in case of another technical failure.

Expressing doubts about the predictability of gyroscopes, which now need weekly attitude (orientation) corrections, the official said: “If one of the two gyroscopes were to fail, switching over to the third [back up] one could mean a possible loss of lock [when orientation goes awry].”

“Most of the instruments have completed their work, including the Moon Mineralogy Mapper. We will see if the agencies are satisfied with the data they have received and if not, to specify the gaps that have to be filled,” the official said.

Meanwhile, NASA on Monday posted an image of the earth (see picture) taken from 200 km above the lunar surface by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper is an imaging spectrometer designed by NASA to provide a map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, to shed light on the moon’s origin.

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