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Nasa praises India's mission, wants joint exploration of solar system

Author: Surendra Singh
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 9, 2019
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nasa-praises-indias-mission-wants-joint-exploration-of-solar-system/articleshow/71040650.cms

US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) on Sunday said it was "inspired" with India's Chandrayaan-2 moon mission and that it was ready to tie up with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for a joint exploration of the solar system. Nasa's reaction came a day after Vikram lander made a "hard-landing" in the wee hours of Saturday even as a source in the Indian space agency said that a Nasa payload on board the lander "could cast light on what happened just before the communication link with the lander was lost" during the final descent.

On Sunday, Isro chairman K Sivan confirmed that the cameras on board Chandrayaan-2's orbiter had "clicked the image of the lander". But he said he did not have any information yet about whether the lander was damaged in "hard-landing".

Praising India for its difficult landing mission on Moon's south pole, Nasa tweeted, "Space is hard. We commend ISRO's attempt to land their Chandrayaan2 mission on the Moon's South Pole. You have inspired us with your journey and look forward to future opportunities to explore our solar system together." The US offer for joint exploration came even as Isro plans to launch its Aditya L-1 solar mission by next year.
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NASA @NASA
Space is hard. We commend @ISRO’s attempt to land their #Chandrayaan2 mission on the Moon’s South Pole. You have inspired us with your journey and look forward to future opportunities to explore our solar system together.

ISRO @isro
#Chandrayaan2 mission was a highly complex mission, which represented a significant technological leap compared to the previous missions of #ISRO to explore the unexplored south pole of the Moon.…
10:18 AM - 7 Sep 2019
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A senior Trump adminstration official, acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice G Wells, also called India's mission "incredible". "The mission is a huge step forward for India and will continue to produce valuable data to fuel scientific advancements. We have no doubt that India will achieve its space aspirations," he tweeted.

The Isro source told TOI that Nasa's payload laser reflector array (LRA) on board Vikram was meant to track the lander's location and calculate the distance between Earth and Moon. "The US payload, attached to Vikram, could provide vital clues about exactly what happened just before the "hard-landing". It could have beamed lasers to several US orbiters in Moon's circular orbit and given data of Vikram's final descent." He said, "If Vikram had broken, the Nasa payload would have also shattered as it had mirror components." However, the Isro source said that Nasa could have information related to the final descent that it could share with India.

Nasa's LRA is an array of mirrors that provide a target for laser-tracking measurements from the ground. By analysing the round-trip time of the laser beam, Nasa can locate where the satellite is on its orbit. It is a completely passive reflector designed to reflect laser pulses back to their point of origin on Earth. It is used for the calibration of the precise orbit determination system on the spacecraft.

A day before Vikram's final descent, former Nasa astronaut Jerry Linenger had explained to TOI about the role of the US payload, saying "laser reflector on board the lander would beam a laser to orbiters around Moon (orbit), which would be reflected and the return signal would be assessed to find the exact altitude. By doing so, it would help make Moon mapping much more accurate."

Before Chandrayaan-2, similar Nasa payload was on board Israel's Beresheet lander module. Beresheet, which was launched by Space-X's Falcon 9 rocket on February 22 this year, crashlanded on the lunar surface on April 11. There were reports that the LRA on board Beresheet might have survived the crash and separated from the wreckage. If the LRA on Chandrayaan-2's Vikram had also survived the "hard-landing", its data then could provide some clue about the errors in Vikram's final descent.
 
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