Chandrayaan-1 was a fantastic success: European scientist

By K.S. Jayaraman, IANS,

Bangalore : Indian media should stop criticising the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for abruptly terminating Chandrayaan-1 and instead applaud the success of its moon mission, a European space scientist has said.

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Although its life was cut short, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 was a “fantastic success”, Detlef Koschny, European Chandrayaan-1 project scientist, said in an e-mail interview. Chandrayaan-1 had carried three scientific payloads of the European Space Agency (ESA).

All the European teams were “much excited” about the results they got, he said. “I think (the) Indian press should stop trying to put ISRO down. You should rather acknowledge the fantastic achievements your space agency did,” he said, listing many of the achievements.

“You sent a spacecraft to the Moon and entered a low lunar orbit — a very high challenge which is already a fantastic success,” Koschny told IANS.

“Secondly, all scientific instruments were commissioned and worked flawlessly. The data came down, over a distance of about 400,000 km and it was put together into images, atomic counts etc.”

“To have a spacecraft survive in such an environment for such a long time is not simple — you should congratulate them (ISRO) for this,” Koschny said, adding that all principal investigators in Europe felt as he did.

Koschny said ESA scientists’ appreciation has been communicated to ISRO in a statement by Stas Barabash, principal investigator of the Sub KeV Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA), one of the three ESA payloads on board Chandrayaan-1.

The SARA experiment was expected to reveal the surface composition of the moon and associated magnetic anomalies by studying the interaction of solar wind with the moon’s surface.

“The SARA team is very pleased with the data received. The experiment fulfilled its scientific objectives. SARA considers Chandrayaan-1 as a full success. The team not only received science data but also demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of neutral atom imaging of the solar wind-surface interaction,” Koschny said.

The letter to ISRO further said if the SARA team were invited again to build an instrument for a 10-month Chandrayaan mission, “we would, with no hesitation, agree to participate”.

The openness of the Chandrayaan-1 mission also came for praise from the European scientists. “The management scheme involving Indian and non-Indian research group developing together a scientific instrument was extremely successful,” the letter said.

According to the European team leader, the data obtained by SARA opens a new field. “The data demonstrate clearly that the field of the solar wind-Moon interaction is not boring as many scientists believed.”

According to the ESA scientists, the SARA experiment done on board Chandrayaan-1 has for the first time demonstrated that a large percentage of the solar wind protons get reflected back as neutral atoms, thus calling for a reconsideration of the “accepted solar wind deposition rates”.

The experiment has shown that these neutrals can be used to study solar wind interaction with all planetary bodies that do not have an atmosphere.

(K.S. Jayaraman can be contacted at [email protected])