Chandrayaan-2: Vikram located on moon surface

The Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram module has been located on the lunar surface and it must have been a hard-landing, ISRO chairman K Sivan said, in an admission that the planned soft-landing was not successful.

The image of the lander rover Pragyan housed inside it was captured by onboard camera of Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which is healthy, safe and functioning normally in the intended orbit around the Moon.

The orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images that will be immensely useful to the global scientific community, the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency had said earlier.

India’s bold mission to soft-land on the moon suffered a setback with the Vikram module losing communication with ground stations, just 2.1 km from the lunar surface during its final descent in the early hours of Saturday.

Considered as the “most complex” stage of the country’s second expedition to the Moon, the lander was on a powered decent for a soft-landing when it lost contact.

The data is being analysed, the ISRO had said soon after.

Asked if the lander was damaged during the hard landing, Sivan said, “That we do not know.”

But some space experts said Vikram suffering damage in the hard landing cannot be ruled out.

Sivan had said on Saturday that the space agency would try to establish link with the lander for 14 days and reiterated after it was located on the lunar surface by Chandrayaan-2’s onboard cameras that those efforts would continue.

He had said that Vikram lander’s descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km, but subsequently, communication from the lander to ground stations was lost.

A senior ISRO official said time was running out and possibility of re-establishing communication looks “less and less probable”.

“Progressively... as time goes by-...it’s difficult (establish link),” the official said, but added that with the “right orientation” it can still generate power and recharge batteries with solar panels.

“But it looks less and less probable, progressively,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to ISRO, 90 to 95 per cent of the Chandrayaan-2 mission objectives have been accomplished and it will continue to contribute to lunar science, notwithstanding the loss of communication with the lander.

The space agency also said the precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost seven years, instead of the planned one year for the orbiter.

The successful touch-down would have made India the fourth country after erstwhile USSR, the US and China to achieve a soft-landing on the Moon, also the first to launch a mission to the unexplored south pole of the Moon.

The orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100-km orbit.

Chandrayaan-2, a follow-on mission to the Chandrayaan-1 mission undertaken more than a decade ago, comprises an orbiter, lander (Vikram) and rover (Pragyan).

The orbiter carries eight scientific payloads for mapping the lunar surface and study the exosphere (outer atmosphere) of the Moon.

ISRO on September 2 successfully carried out the separation of lander Vikram (with rover Pragyan housed inside) from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter.

The Vikram module, which was supposed to carry out various tests on the lunar soil, had completed the rough braking phase as planned and entered the phase of fine braking at an altitude of 2.1 km, when it lost communication.

ISRO officials said that data available till the lander lost communication with the ground-stations was being analysed to find out what exactly went wrong but declined to specify a timeline for completing the exercise.

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