The Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO has located Vikram, the lost lunar lander of Chandrayaan-2 on the moon’s surface, the agency’s chief K Sivan announced on Sunday. The orbiter circling the moon has spotted the lander, but there is still no communication signal. The ground mission control of the space agency is trying to establish contact with the lander.
Sivan told the ANI news service in an interview, “We have found the location of Vikram lander on lunar surface and orbiter has clicked a thermal image of the lander. But there is no communication yet. We are trying to have contact. We do not know if the Vikram module was damaged during the hard-landing on the lunar surface.”
In the early hours of Saturday, during the first-ever soft-landing attempt on the Moon’s south pole. Vikram had successfully launched itself towards the moon and moved against its gravity for more than 28 km exactly as per plan, but just 2.1 km above the surface, it seemed to slow down almost to a halt mid-air before losing contact with the ground station.
ISRO officials wrote in an update, “The Vikram Lander followed the planned descent trajectory from its orbit of 35 km (22 miles) to just below 2 km above the surface. All the systems and sensors of the Lander functioned excellently until this point and proved many new technologies such as variable thrust propulsion technology used in the Lander.”
In a statement on Saturday, ISRO had said that the Chandrayaan-2 mission was “highly complex” and its achievements were a “significant technological leap” equated to the space agency’s earlier projects.
Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second mission to the moon after the successful Chandrayaan-1 mission of 2008 which discovered the spectral signature for water across wide swaths of the moon. The Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter equipped with eight different payloads aims to pick up where its predecessor left off.
ISRO officials stated, “This was a unique mission which aimed at studying not just one area of the Moon but all the areas combining the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface of the moon in a single mission. The Orbiter has already been placed in its intended orbit around the Moon and shall enrich our understanding of the moon’s evolution and mapping of the minerals and water molecules in the Polar Regions, using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments.”
Sivan had said this weekend that ISRO would “try to establish a link for the next 14 days” with the Chandrayaan-2 lander. He told Doordarshan News that the last phase of the mission was not accomplished properly because of which the link with the lander was lost.
ISRO has not yet released the Chandrayaan-2 image of Vikram on the lunar surface or described the potential condition of the lander. But they have claimed that the lander has already demonstrated key technologies for future missions.
It’s interesting to note that out of the 40 soft-landing attempts on the lunar surface including the latest one by ISRO, only 20 have succeeded so far highlighting the complexities of these lunar missions.