Chandrayaan-2 orbiter locates lander on moon

Indian space scientists involved in the moon mission Chandrayaan-2 are on cloud nine as the robotic lander Vikram, above, (Image: ISRO/YouTube) has been located on Sunday, 24 hours after it stopped sending signals at 2.1 kilometres from the polar landing zone.

The orbiter equipped with high-resolution cameras clicked the thermal image of the lander as it came above the designated landing zone while circling the moon.

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Sivan said it may have been a hard landing for Vikram.

The lander and the robotic lunar rover it carries will last only one lunar day (14 days) and with time running out, ISRO scientists are trying to re-establish contact with the lander.

Space is a hard place but miracles can happen there too. There had been instances in the past of space vehicles that were considered lost sending signals again to the mission control centre.

It is difficult to say what went wrong with the lander at 2.1 kilometres from the polar landing zone around 1.50am on Saturday.

Maybe, the thrusters were unable to kill the velocity of the lander to zero during its “most terrifying” vertical descent to the moon’s surface. Vikram had successfully completed the rough breaking phase, the navigation phase and the fine breaking phase.

‘Mission almost 100% success’

Amid uncertainty over the fate of the lander on Saturday, Sivan looked confident when he described the mission to the Moon’s south pole as very close to 100% success.

As much as 95% of the space experiments will be carried out by the orbiter and it is functioning well. Moreover, the fuel-efficient spacecraft may last seven years and not one year as reported by media, he told the State broadcaster Doordarshan in an exclusive interview.

Sivan’s update on the longevity of the orbiter makes the mission almost 100% success. To make it 100% successful, the lander should re-establish contact with the mission control centre.

Besides sending high-resolution images of Vikram and the landing site, the orbiter’s payloads will also map the lunar surface, examine the presence of major minerals such as Magnesium, Titanium, Aluminium, Calcium, Sodium, Silicon and Iron, measure the intensity of solar radiation and explore the presence of water-ice.

The data and images gathered will be sent to Indian Deep Space Network operated by the ISRO.

Compared with the challenges set for the orbiter, the tasks assigned for Pragyan Vikram are relatively small.

Pragyan’s payloads are expected to determine the elemental composition of lunar rocks and soil as well as the lunar surface near the landing site and carry out a series of tests.

Vikram’s payloads are supposed to measure electron density/temperature, plasma density, vertical temperature gradient and thermal conductivity of the lunar surface.