Lander Vikram Located on Lunar Surface: ISRO Chief K. Sivan

The lander was discovered by the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter but its health status is currently unknown

Bengaluru: ISRO chairman K. Sivan on Sunday told PTI that the Chandrayaan 2 Vikram module has been located on the lunar surface and it must have been a hard-landing – in an admission that the planned soft-landing was not successful.

Asked if the lander was damaged during the hard-landing, he said ISRO doesn’t know yet.

Sivan said efforts to establish contact with the lander are still on.

Also read: The Farther Away From Chandrayaan, the Pettier the Winds Blow

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

Considered 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 communication.

“The descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, communication from the lander to ground stations was lost,” Sivan had said at the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC).

“The data is being analysed,” he had added.

The successful landing 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 Chandrayaan 2 orbiter is healthy and safe in the Lunar orbit, an ISRO official said after the lander lost contact with ground stations minutes before the touchdown on Moon’s surface.

Also read: Chandrayaan 2 in Limbo as ISRO Loses Contact With Lander, History on Hold

“The orbiter is healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the Lunar orbit,” the official told PTI.

The mission life of the 2,379-kg orbiter is one year. The orbiter payloads would 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 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.

‘Vikram’, named after Dr Vikram A. Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Programme, was designed to execute a soft-landing on the lunar surface, and to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 earth days.

Also read: Why Chandrayaan 2 Was a Success Well Before ‘Vikram’ Got to the Moon

The rover was to roll down from the lander explore the surrounding lunar terrain, a few hours after the planned soft-landing.

The Chandrayaan 2 is a Rs 978-crore unmanned moon mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore).

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully launched the 3,840-kg Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit on July 22.

The spacecraft began its journey towards the moon leaving the earth’s orbit in the dark hours on August 14, after a crucial manoeuver called Trans Lunar Insertion that was carried out by ISRO to place the spacecraft on “Lunar Transfer Trajectory.”

The spacecraft successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20 by performing Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuver. On September 2, Vikram successfully separated from the orbiter, following which two de-orbiting manoeuvres were performed to bring the lander closer to the Moon.