Bengaluru: ISRO has found a ‘wounded’ Vikram, the Chandrayaan 2 lunar lander, on the moon’s surface. The highly sophisticated Mission Control Centre here is trying to ‘nurse’ the lander by trying to ‘talk’ to it through a series of emergency commands.
The report that ISRO has been located was put out by PTI news agency which quoted ISRO chief K Sivan as saying today.
“Yes, we have located the lander on the lunar surface. It must have been a hard-landing,” Dr Sivan said. But he did not spell details about how badly the lander had been damaged.
Dr Sivan said the lunar orbiter had taken a thermal image of the lander. “… orbiter has clicked a thermal image of Lander. But there is no communication yet. We are trying to have contact. It will be communicated soon,” he was quoted as saying.
In a statement to Doordarshan Saturday, Dr Sivan had blamed faulty execution of the last stage of the operation for the loss of communication.
“The last part of the operation was not executed in the right manner. It was in that phase that we lost link with the lander, and could not establish contact subsequently,” he said.
The last part was the most critical ‘soft braking’ phase when Vikram’s speed was supposed to have been reduced to near-zero and it should have been vertically still over the lunar surface to make a soft landing.
This critical phase was ‘autonomous’. In other words, the phase was controlled by on-board computer systems.
Sources in ISRO say that the lander would have had a hard landing on the lunar surface and that it may not have landed on its four legs. It would be difficult to put it back on its ‘feet’ again.
The fact that the Vikram lander had toppled proved that it had lost its orientation and that it had badly tilted.
However, ISRO is trying all means to establish communication with Vikram from the ground station. If that is established, India’s space agency may get a clue on what happened during the critical moments when the lander was just 2.1 km from the dark south side of the lunar surface. It was at this juncture that Vikram veered off its path and had stopped transmitting signals, indicating it had crash-landed.
A successful soft landing on the moon’s surface would have made India only the fourth – after the United States, Russia and China – to achieve the feat.
It would also have made India the first country to successfully land near the South Pole on its first attempt. This is an area that is supposed to contain huge quantities of water in the form of ice.
The ISRO chief had earlier admitted that the final minutes of the soft landing were the most tricky, calling them “15 minutes of terror”.
“This is a very complex process and it is new for us. It is a complex process even for those who have already done it. We are doing this for the first time, so it will be fifteen minutes of terror for us,” he had said earlier.
Vikram and lunar rover Pragyan, which is housed inside the lander, were scheduled to operate for one lunar day (equal to 14 Earth days) and carry out a series of surface and sub-surface experiments.
Despite the setback, the lunar orbiter, which is in orbit around the moon, will be operational for seven years and help in the understanding of the moon’s evolution, mapping of its minerals and water molecules in polar regions.
Chandrayaan 2 was launched on July 22 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, on the back of a GSLV Mark III rocket.