Chandrayaan-2: Vikram silent, but sound victory for India

Bengaluru: India’s attempt to create history by becoming the first nation to land close to the south pole of the Moon faced a minor setback today, after Chandrayaan-2’s lander ‘Vikram’ lost communication with the ground stations just ahead of the soft landing.

The snag occurred minutes after the module began the fine braking phase of its descent to the unexplored lunar South Pole. But still, India managed to taste victory, as the Orbiter which ferried lander Vikram and rover Pragyan to the Moon’s orbit remains functional.

According to an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientist, the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter is healthy and safe in the Lunar orbit.

“The Orbiter is healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the Lunar orbit,” the official said. The mission life of the 2,379-kg Orbiter is one year. The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit.
ISRO may have lost Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander and rover Pragyan housed inside it, a senior official of the space agency associated with the unmanned moon mission said here today.

Earlier in the day, contact from the lander to the ground stations was lost during its powered descent to the Lunar surface minutes before the planned touch-down.

“Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communications from the lander to ground stations was lost,” ISRO chief K Sivan said. “The data is being analysed,” he added.

The 1,471-kg lander of Chandrayaan-2 – first Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology – is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme.

The lander 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.

Chandrayaan-2’s 27-kg rover is a six-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan, which translates to ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit. It’s designed to travel up to 500 metres from the landing spot on the Moon and leverage solar energy for its functioning.
The lander carried three scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface science experiments, while the rover carried two payloads to enhance our understanding of the lunar surface, according to ISRO. The mission life of the orbiter will be one year while that of the rover was to be one lunar day which is equal to 14 earth days.

As it happened…
Timeline of India’s second unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan -2
June 12: ISRO Chairman K Sivan announces India’s second sojourn to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, would be launched on July 15.June 29: Rover after completion of all tests integrated with lander Vikram.

June 29: Vikram lander (assembled with Pragyan Rover) integrated with Orbiter.

July 4: Integration of encapsulated assembly of Chandrayaan-2 with launch vehicle (GSLV MkIII-M1) completed.

July 7: GSLV MkIII-M1 moved to launch pad.

July 14: Countdown for GSLV MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 launch on July 15 commences.

July 15: ISRO calls off Chandrayaan-2 launch as a technical snag is observed in launch vehicle system about one hour before blast-off.

July 18: Chandrayaan-2 launch rescheduled for July 22, at 2.43 pm from second launch pad of SDSC, Sriharikota.

July 21: Countdown for GSLV MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 launch on July 22 commences.

July 22: GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully launches Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft.

July 24: First earth bound orbit raising manoeuvre for Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was performed successfully.

July 26: Second earth bound manoeuvre performed.

July 29: Third earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 2: Fourth earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 4: ISRO releases first set of images of the earth captured by Chandrayaan-2 satellite.

August 6: Fifth earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 14: Chandrayaan-2 successfully enters Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

August 20: Lunar Orbit Insertion. Chandrayaan-2 successfully inserted into Lunar orbit.

August 22: First set of pictures of Moon taken by Chandrayaan-2’s LI4 Camera from an altitude of about 2,650 km
from the lunar surface released by ISRO.

August 21: Second lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

August 26: ISRO releases second set of images of lunar surface captured by Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2) of
Chandrayaan 2.

August 28:Third lunar bound orbit manoeuvre performed.

August 30: Fourth lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

September 1: Fifth and final lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

September 2: Vikram lander successfully separates from Orbiter.

September 3: First de-orbiting manoeuvre performed to bring Vikram closer to moon.

September 4: Second de-orbiting manoeuvre performed.

September 7: Vikram lander begins its powered descent, normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km, but loses contact with ground stations minutes before the crucial touchdown on the lunar surface.


All hopes not lost…
Enthusiasm soon turned into a sense of despair at ISRO’s Mission Operations Complex as India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2’s lander ‘Vikram’ lost communication with the ground stations today just ahead of the soft landing. But all hopes are not lost, with support pouring in from various quarters.
The mission that started from 22 July with the launch of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft achieved one milestone after
another in a phased manner. There were cheers and clapping both at the missioncontrol centre and the area where media was stationed, as Vikram’s descent was on as planned at that time. But, disappointment was palpable on the faces of the ISRO scientists within minutes as they stopped getting any communication from the lander.


NT Bureau