Chandrayaan-2: ISRO Gives Up As Time Runs Out To Contact Vikram
Video Editor: Deepti Ramdas
Cameraperson: Sumit Badola
Night has descended on the South Pole of the Moon and with that comes an end to the efforts to communicate with Vikram, India’s lunar lander, which will now lie quietly forever, not having had a chance to carry out its mission.
Just to bring you up to speed, Vikram was the lunar lander of the Chandrayaan-2 mission that was to soft-land on the moon on 7 September. As we all watched, ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation, lost contact with it in the final stages of descent, when it was just 2.1 Km from the surface.
Did it crash? Did it land? Some sources in ISRO said it was a hard landing, because it failed to reduce its velocity. According to them, the lander last reported a vertical velocity of 59 metres per second or 212 Kmph, and a horizontal velocity of 48 metres per second or 173 Kmph. The vertical velocity should have reduced to zero.
It is suspected the lander’s reverse thrust engines – four of them – somehow didn’t provide the necessary braking in the fine braking phase.
The Orbitor, which continues to circle the moon at about 100 Km from the surface, took a thermal image of the lander, confirming it was on the lunar surface, intact, but lying motionless tilted to one side.
Since then these are the efforts that ISRO has tried to re-establish contact with the Lander.
Using its deep space network antennas in Bengaluru, it has been sending out signals to the Lander. Even NASA’s deep space network joined in the effort. “Hello Vikram, come in Vikram…” But there’s been no response. NASA’s LRO or Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor, flew over the landing site and has taken pictures, but so far hasn’t been able to spot Vikram, because of the long shadows just ahead of the lunar night.
Without a response it’s not possible for ISRO to find out if the solar panels on the Lander were damaged. They were responsible for powering Vikram for 14 Earth days or one lunar day.
On board Vikram were three payloads – the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (the RAMBHA experiment), Chandra Surface Thermo-physical Experiment (CHASTE) and the Instrument to measure lunar quakes – Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA).
Being incommunicado, this is the part of the mission that wasn’t successful. However, the Orbitor has eight payloads on board and is set to orbit for seven years now instead of one year, given that ISRO managed to save fuel during its journey to the moon. It will perform tasks like mapping the lunar surface, examining for major elements, measuring solar radiation and the big one – looking for water on the moon. That could have been confirmed by Pragyan, the rover aboard Vikram, but well, we will just have to wait for some more time now.
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