Physical Science Blog

Phoenix lander goes quiet as India shoots the Moon

As one space mission ends, another begins. NASA announced this week that the agency has not received a signal from the Phoenix lander since November 2. The interplanetary flatline indicates […]

November 13, 2008
The Phoenix lander (left) signed off while an Indian spacecraft pulled into an orbit around the Moon this week.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona; ISRO
The Phoenix lander (left) signed off while an Indian spacecraft pulled into an orbit around the Moon this week. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona; ISRO

As one space mission ends, another begins.

NASA announced this week that the agency has not received a signal from the Phoenix lander since November 2. The interplanetary flatline indicates that fading, seasonal sunlight has starved the craft of the solar energy needed to soldier on through the Martian autumn.

Researchers will keep listening to see if Phoenix chirps back to life, but worsening weather means that the lander has likely reached the end of its operational existence. In its extended five-month mission, the craft finally solved the major mystery about the presence of water on Mars. On-board sensors “tasted” the agua in August from melted ice in a soil sample.

Phoenix also detected snow flurries in clouds high in the Martian atmosphere, and revealed a mineral-rich, alkaline soil that a researcher described as suitable for growing asparagus (if the Red Planet were a good deal warmer, of course).

Scientists say they still have reams of data to pour over from Phoenix’s successful expedition, though the ultimate prize – extraterrestrial life – has yet to emerge on Earth’s little brother of a planet.

But don’t let Phoenix’s demise get you down. When you take a look at the Moon sometime over the next two years, think to yourself: India has a spacecraft orbiting that!

Called Chandrayaan-1, the lunar probe is India’s first astronomical mission beyond Earth’s orbit. Launched back in October by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the spacecraft reached the Moon on Saturday. During its mission, the orbiter will use its bevy of instruments to scan the lunar surface and will fire off the Moon Impact Probe to – you guessed it – smash onto the cratered, barren moonscape and snap some pictures during its descent.

India accomplished this feat with help from the European Space Agency, NASA, and Bulgaria. Seeing all these different organizations and nations working together in the common pursuit of knowledge is an auspicious chapter in space exploration.

Related on Scienceline:

The Mars Science Laboratory: The next big bad Mars rover to take up where Phoenix left off.

Phoenix went out rather quietly . . . but see how it roared into the Red Planet just a few months ago.

With all this news of spacecraft performing well and making significant finds, how are things looking for manned exploration of the solar system?

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Vijay says:

What an ignoramus! India did not achieve this mission with the help of US, ESA or bulgaria. In fact these space agencies got a free ride on the Indian craft for their instruments! Please dont write articles without properly researching them in the first place.

Jignesh says:

Vijay is right….I think the writer is biased or he has been forced to write so………

Reddy says:

What the Hell. In fact they got cheap ride to the moon. They did not help in any way. Same Old Western style of saying things.

Manoj Kumar says:

What a joke!. India received help from Bulagria!!!! A typical Western lunatic moron.

Adam Hadhazy says:

Dear readers,

NASA, ESA, and Bulgaria did contribute to the Chandrayaan-1 mission, which in no way takes away from ISRO’s success:

I included that information about other international partners to show how this scientific endeavor has brought different countries together in the spirit of exploration. I think such contributions should be applauded and not construed as somehow diminishing what is clearly a great moment for India’s space program. I regret any reactions to the contrary that the mentioning of those details may have caused. Thanks for reading, and let’s look forward to the insights that this lunar mission will provide.
– Adam

Chakravarty says:

Adam Hadhazy,

Please try to read your quoted article carefully! Try to improve your English writing standards and comprehension standards, you stu-pid writer. Do not attempt to malign Asian and Indian achievements. The same happened with China Olympics (western journalists comments trying to malign it).

The day is not far off when you will be in the payrolls of Indian journalists and write only India-biased articles! In fact very soon you will be forced to do so despite your wishes.

Bobby says:

Dear Mr. Adam,
Ignorance is really bliss isnt it? Do you know that NASA, the ESA and Bulgarian space agencies just did a piggy back ride on CY1? Not the other way round. Tonight when you would be sipping a beer and in complete bliss of your ignorance, INDIA would be planting their flag on the moon. Do you have any idea how we reached the POLAR orbit or how and why we are gonna crash land the MIP? Everyone is not ecstatic about India’s newyly acquired skills in exosphere, thinking we would use our new skills in Military purpose. These idiots do not know what we can do and why we would do. We have till now used it only in peaceful purposes. Otherwise some countries would have been out of the face of this earth long time back. We believe in Non violence. When the Industrial revolution was happening in Europe, India was poor. But we were rich in one thing. Arithematics, Science and “English”. I am sure if you read what you have written even you would not be able to comprehend. Take a break, Have a life.

Jinu says:

I wont jump on Adam on this. I am sure he wrote this in good intensions. It would have been great if could express it in clearer language.Chandrayan as such in an Indian baby..infact India suffered a lot from US sanctions.Tecnology behind the mission is 100% Indian. Buy they offered to carry payloads from other countries eager to co-operate in others missions in the same way.

Venkat says:

ESA and NASA indeed are helpinh ISRO on this mission. In flight dynamics for Chandrayaan ESA indeed is providing active help, in return ISRO is giving ESA a free ride. NASA is providing access to its deep space network at Goldstone, Canberra and Madrid. The 24hour access to chandrayaan is not possible without the DSN access. In fact ISRO was really grateful to NASA on this.

Venkat says:

This is taken from ESA website – showing how much ESA has helped indians:

“…. ESA has coordinated and supported the provision of the three European instruments on board (C1XS, SARA, SIR-2), and assisted ISRO in areas such as flight dynamics and is supporting data archiving and processing. As a result of the collaboration, ESA and ISRO will share the data from their respective instruments. Other international partners in the mission include Bulgaria and the USA.”

On behalf of all educated and non-bigoted indians. We thank the Europeans and Americans for helping us.

Narayan says:

No doubt it is great moment for Indian science, the Indian culture also mentions not to be disrespectfull of others. Mr Adam has clarified his position so well. There are other civil ways to point out to Mr Adam. Being a fellow Indian I disagree to the comments of few people above who in the momemnt of pride are calling the author different names. It is courtosy that any help is always followed by a Thank You even if it is a small one. Not comment like this.

StarHammer says:

Woooow!!The hostility from such “peaceful” folk. So Adam the whole “common pursuit” thing you spoke of is only obtainable if equal parts are at work. Should we then rethink who has contributed to the global good in way of space/astronomic achievements? And those who have not contributed equally receive no contributions from the rest of the astronomical community? No that would be stu-pid and ignorant! Considering some of the goals the ISRO wishes to achieve with CY1 would not be achievable without the deep space network. No let the “peaceful” folk have whatever the need and dare someone speak the term “common pursuit” and watch “peaceful” folk start name calling and telling everyone what there “peaceful purposes” may or may not be.(Wait did I dare imply that European Space Agency, NASA, or Bulgaria were part of the world’s astronomical community)
Grow up.

Kala says:

Venkat, not a question of hostility, but its the tone employed by Adam that frivolises india’s achievement. His remark of “think of the moon and india’s craft orbiting it!” is as if it were a miracle that a country full of snake charmers and bullock carts have send a spaceship to moon. Indeed they (must have) accomplished this with the help of others! There is a fundamental difference between “coordination” and “helping” india achieve this! Point is India would have achieved this despite the coordination (or help) from the other space agencies!

Narayana says:

As Venkat pointed out, its a reasonable trade off. We get to use the existing ESA/NASA infrastructure in return for free rides. Bulgaria got a favor here. India surely should have earned respect from such other nations with space tech. aspirations.

Having said that, I’m surprised that the tone of the post has not yet been edited to reflect this mutual win-win favors.

What will this mission achieve :
3D atlases of geographical/mineral profiles, probe-impact-dust analysis, etc..

Ahh.. Since Man-landing-on-Moon issue has become a matter of faith now.. it can be resolved if Chandrayaan can detect an artifact on moon that only a human could have made, in person on the surface.

Kala says:

And maybe you need to point out to Adam that while india has the largest indigenious constellation of satellites orbiting the earth in the Asia Pacific region and the largest number of remote sensing satellites orbiting the earth, it has a space program so advanced and extensive that most countries of the world (other than possibly US and Russia) wont have any input of value for the Indians. Again Adam probably doesnt realise that India is the 4 largest economy (Purchasing Parity wise) in the world and has almost $400 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Its space program is self funding and has provided a range of services throughout india, including telecommunication, remote sensing, disaster management etc. Sure there are a lot of poor in india. But it also has the largest middleclass in the world too! Afterall poor people form a substantial part of the US of A as well! That hasnt stopped USA becoming the dominant power on this planet in the past (though whose time seems to be coming to an end due to ignorance and arrogance in part). So India;s metamorphical rise is going to be more evident from now on, and more and more people such as Adam are finally starting to open their eyes (though incredulously and still unbelieving) to this fact.

Venkat says:


We Indians have only recently been getting the great successess we yearned and rightly strived for.

Lets be humble and magnanimous in our success as we have always been in our history and culture. Lets not get carried away and become arrogant – which history has shown always led to the eventual downfall of mighty civilizations.

God Bless India, God Bless the world whose integral part we are.

Take care.

Kala says:

Being humble venkat doesnt mean turning a blind eye to other people’s subtle insults. And when you talk of recent success. lets not forget that Indian culture and success goes back to many thousands of years. Probably one of the oldest if not the oldest civilization in the world! Being righteous and standing upto someone’s insults can certainly not be termed as arrogance! However, meekly submitting to their taunts and jokes can be called as cowardice….

Kala says:

Or maybe Venkat meekly submitting to such taunts could also make someone into a traitor! Do u work for Adam? Or maybe you are Adam writing under the name of Venkat!!!!

I will appreciate an article that is written in good humour and with the correct facts. Especially a scientific one at that. But to tolerate an article that is intended to poke fun at certain communities or people is just not on!

Chakravarty says:


Venkat is Adam Hadhazy.

ESA or any other country’s space agency has not helped ISRO in anyway. ESA’s website says that also. They have just loaded their instruments at a low cost offered on friendly terms by India as a magnanimous gesture.

Daffy says:

Hi! Fact is ISRO has been under sanctions for long, to the extent of even being denied putting common microprocessors on their PSLV launch vehicles. Thus they made Vikram processors instead of using common Western ones. Even the Western instruments on board have been co-developed with ISRO if you check up. Indeed it is great as Adam mentions that there is transparency and cooperation and bears well for the future. But this is mainly from ISRO’s large heartedness. ISRO is doing science and indeed i think Adam means to say encouraging cooperation in it. Doing this for free too. Congratulations ISRO!

siddhanth says:


You have quoted from the ESA to defend a somewhat paternalistic comment from Adam.

To be fair, shouldn’t you also have quoted the numerous comments from ISRO about how almost everything was done indigenously.

However, I would agree with you that we could be magnanimous and appreciate his desire for scientific cooperation that cuts across national borders.

However, having suffered so many sanctions and been subjected to so many technology denial regimes, and in particular, having been brutally colonized and pauperized by Britain, it would behoove those seeking cooperation with India to be a bit more honest and appreciative of the magnitude of India’s own heroic efforts in this regard.

As others have noted, India could have well undertaken this mission without the cooperation of others. That it chose to cooperate with other agencies demonstrates India’s desire for genuine international cooperation – not hand-holding or paternalistic indulgence (as what might be incorrectly) inferred from the article.

Nevertheless, I do sense a certain positive spirit in Adam’s article, and having made our point, I’d now vote to give him a break – and here is to greater future cooperation – but with a spirit of mutual recognition and respect.

Rgz says:

Wow! Hey author, don’t think that these hostile comments represent the collective view of Indians. I am an Indian too and when I read your article, I had a feeling that some Indians might not like the last part but I had no idea they would rip this issue to shreds.

You were trying to explain how the global community has come together. The Indian readers construed it as diminishing their achievement.

There is a polite way of giving your point of view in a comment. Unfortunately, everybody on the internet is a “badass”. People who would never have the courage to say something in conversation use the most rude and vulgar language they can on the web.
Dont let that stop you from blogging.

Venkat says:

To all the spiteful and hateful indians out there, today we are all so economically and politically intertwined that it is fool hardy to let our petty egos come in way.

Yes it is the same Americans and Europeans who imposed sanctions when we tested our nukes. But they are the same people that promoted free trade that allowed IT jobs being outsourced to us in India. They are the same people who bring in much needed foreign investement into india. They are the same people that allow companies like TATA, Reliances, Mittals etc to buy their companies for economic prosperity.

My fellow foolish Indians buring in rage with your teeny tiny egos will make you be more like Raj Thackereys and Mayawatis of this world. This slippery slope of identity politics and self serving ego boosts will only end up tearing us up internally.

Grow up. We are 6 billion people living in this tiny speck of dust called earth. We have to live on this earth together.

This mission to moon by indians is indeed a great mission by us. Yet lets also acknowledge those who also played a role in helping us get there. And also do remember they also did it before us.

Venkat says:

Here is NASA help:

“….The ISRO – NASA partnership allows ISRO to utilise three deep space complexes, in California, Spain, and Australia, to receive scientific data 24×7 from Chandrayaan-1, at no additional cost. Reports suggest that NASA usually charges around $25,000 an hour for receiving data from space missions not carrying its instruments…..”

Read more at:

The ESA’s contribution I mentioned that above. Its at ESA’s website at.
Go to the end and READ.

And for Chakravarty who thinks I am Adam, this is surprising as I thought he was a chinese agent who wants to provoke the Americans and Europeans into not collaborating with Indians in Space. Chinese are hell bent breaking any such partnership.

Venkat says:

Here is some more about NASA’s instruments on Chandrayaan:

” …NASA has spent about $100 million for development and fabrication of the instruments, officials said….”

READ at:

This is actually more than what we Indians have spent on the whole mission. Goes on to show the resourcefullness of Indians, yet also shows that Americans too worked their butts off.

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