Credit: ISRO

While Earth orbit is increasingly congested with space clutter, a similar Moon-oriented crisis has recently been avoided.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has announced that the country’s Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter (CH2O) performed an evasive maneuver to mitigate a critically close approach with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

A “very close conjunction” between the two lunar orbiters was expected to occur on October 20, 2021, high above the lunar north pole.

Too close for comfort

The Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter.
Credit: ISRO

Over a span of a week prior to the conjunction, analyses by both ISRO and JPL/NASA prodded both space agencies to deem the situation as too close for comfort, warranting a collision avoidance maneuver.

It was mutually agreed that India’s lunar orbiter would undergo the collision avoidance maneuver – or CAM for short – a tactic that was executed on October 18th.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Later orbit determination of India’s Moon-circling craft reconfirmed that there would be no further close conjunctions with LRO in the near future.

The event highlights the importance of continual assessment of close approach situations for lunar and Mars missions, ISRO stated, “and the fact that effective mitigation of close approach risk involves close coordination and synergy among different space agencies.”

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