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Page last updated at 05:50 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 06:50 UK

India 'terminates' Moon mission

Chandrayaan 1 (ISRO)
All contact with Chandrayaan-1 was lost early on Saturday

India's space agency has abandoned its inaugural Moon mission a day after scientists lost communication with the orbiting Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

"We don't have contact... and we had to terminate...," said the head of Isro - the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The unmanned craft was launched last October in what was billed as a two-year mission of exploration.

The launch was seen as a major step for India as it seeks to keep pace with other space-faring Asian nations.

Despite the termination of the mission, Isro chief G Madhavan Nair told reporters that the project was a great success and 95% of its objectives had been completed.

"We could collect a large volume of data, including 70,000 images of the Moon," he added.

Isro scientists said the agency was in talks with the US and Russia to track the spacecraft, which was orbiting 200km from the surface of the Moon.

Following its launch from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh last October, it was hoped the robotic probe would orbit the Moon, compile a three-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface and map the distribution of elements and minerals.

Useful mission?

Last month the satellite experienced a technical problem when a sensor malfunctioned.

An Isro spokesman said at the time that useful information had already been gathered from pictures beamed to Earth from the probe, although the picture quality had been affected by the malfunction.

Powered by a single solar panel generating about 700 watts, the Isro probe carries five Indian-built instruments and six constructed in other countries, including the US, Britain and Germany.

The mission was expected to cost 3.8bn rupees (£45m; $78m), considerably less than Japanese and Chinese probes sent to the Moon last year.

But the Indian government's space efforts have not been welcomed by all.

Some critics regard the space programme as a waste of resources in a country where millions still lack basic services.



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