After losing contact with Chandrayaan 2’s ‘Vikram’ lander just before its touchdown on the Moon, the determined team at the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO continued to make all-out efforts to re-establish a communication link with the lander. Their persistence has shown results as the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter has captured thermal images of the landing site which indicate that the lander is presently lying on the lunar surface after a supposed hard landing.
Vikram housing the rover ‘Pragyan’ inside it, hit the lunar surface after communication with the ground-stations just snapped during its final descent, mere 2.1 km above the lunar surface, in the early hours last Saturday.
An ISRO official associated with the mission claimed on Monday, “It had a hard-landing very close to the planned (touch-down) site as per the images sent by the on-board camera of the orbiter. The lander is there as a single piece, not broken into pieces. It’s in a tilted position. We are making all-out efforts to see whether communication can be re-established with the lander”.
Chandrayaan 2 comprises an orbiter, lander (Vikram) and rover (Pragyan). The mission life of the lander and rover is one Lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days.
ISRO Chairman K Sivan had briefed on Saturday that ISRO would try to restore the telemetry link with the lander for 14 days, its scheduled lifespan, and repeated the resolve on Sunday after the orbiter’s camera spotted the lander on the lunar surface.
An ISRO official said, “Unless and until everything is intact (lander), it’s very difficult (to re-establish contact). Chances are less. Only if it had soft-landing, and if all systems functioned, then only communication can be restored. Things are bleak as of now.”
Another senior official of the space agency explained, raising hope that lander springing to life again is not ruled out, “I will rate it (restoring link) as good. But there are limitations. We have experience of recovering spacecraft (which had lost contact) in geostationary orbit. But here (in the case of Vikram), that kind of operational flexibility is not there. Already it’s lying on the surface of the Moon, and we cannot reorient it. Vital thing is antennas will have to pointed towards the ground station or the orbiter. Such operation is extremely difficult. At the same time, chances are good and we will have to keep our fingers crossed”.
The official added that the generating power for the lander is not an issue as it is equipped with “solar panels all around it” along with “internal batteries” which “are not used much.” Vikram carried three scientific payloads – Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA), Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) and Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA).