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This article is from the In-Depth Report Robotic Exploration of the Solar System

India's first moon mission ends prematurely with spacecraft communications failure

Chandrayaan-1, Indian space programThe Indian space program joined an elite group last year when its first lunar probe entered orbit around the moon and began taking detailed observations. But the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lost radio contact this weekend with the probe, Chandrayaan 1, and the mission came to an abrupt end after communications could not be reestablished.

"Our efforts to establish contact have failed. The mission has been terminated," ISRO spokesperson S. Satish told Reuters. "There was no point continuing with the mission."

Chandrayaan 1 was nearing the halfway point of its planned two-year mission. The probe carried a suite of instruments from across the globe, including two from NASA: a radar that scanned the interiors of permanently darkened craters and a spectrometer to map the mineral composition of the surface.

Satish told the Associated Press that the spacecraft had accomplished the bulk of its objectives, and indeed, NASA's radar had already mapped 90 percent of the moon's poles by June.

Among the many Indian instruments on Chadrayaan 1 was an impactor that the spacecraft dropped to the surface in November. The impactor probe photographed the moon's surface and measured the lunar atmosphere as it descended to a planned high-speed crash-landing.

For nearly two weeks earlier this year, Chandrayaan 1 had the moon to itself—Japan's Kaguya spacecraft met its planned end June 10, and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter did not reach lunar orbit until June 23.

Photograph of Earth from Chandrayaan 1's lunar orbit during the solar eclipse of July 22: NASA

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