The News: ISRO, India’s space agency has clarified that they lost contact with Chandrayaan-2’s lander, Vikram, far closer to the lunar surface than what was reported. Initially, it was reported that the Lander was 2.1 km above the lunar surface when it went quiet. However, the Lander was likely as close as 400 m to the lunar surface when ISRO lost contact.
Last Sunday, ISRO also announced that it had spotted the Vikram Lander on the lunar surface with the help of the onboard cameras on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which continues to orbit around the Moon.
What next: ISRO continues to try and re-establish contact with the fallen Lander but time is running out. Vikram’s mission along with the six-wheeled Pragyaan Rover was set-up for a period of 14 days. ISRO has until September 20-21 to reconnect with the Lander.
America’s space agency’s, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is currently orbiting the moon and will be passing over the Vikram Lander’s suspected crash site on September 17. NASA’s orbiter will capture images of the site and share it with ISRO. We hope this will provide additional data to ISRO.
Stay Tuned for more space news!
In the early hours of Saturday morning (7 September 2019), millions of people tuned in to watch India attempt to land a robotic lander near the Moon’s South Pole. As planned at 1.40 am (Indian Standard Time), the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft deployed its Vikram Lander towards the lunar surface. The lander started its descent smoothly but disaster struck when ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) contact with it less than two km above the lunar surface.
This was a nail-biting moment for India and all the scientists that have worked tirelessly behind this complex mission. Scientists are now examining the last communication they have received from the Vikram Lander before they lost all contact. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders and celebrities have posted messages on Twitter to encourage the scientists at ISRO.
This was an important mission for India as it was attempting to become the fourth country to successfully soft-land on the Moon and the first country to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s unexplored South Pole. The mission was also carried out at a cost of INR 978 crore (approximately US$141 million) which is much lower than what other countries have spent on lunar missions in the past. This is also the first ISRO mission to have been led by two women – project director Muthaya Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal.
On a positive note, all is not lost. Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter is intact and is expected to circle the moon for another year to learn more about the lunar surface. The mission is still on!
To learn more about the Chandrayaan-2 mission read on.
What is the Chandrayaan-2 mission?
On July 22 2019, ISRO, the Indian space agency, launched its most expensive and complex mission to the moon, the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission is ISRO’s second mission to the moon. This time the mission planned to be the first spacecraft to ever soft-land on the Moon’s south pole.
The spacecraft itself consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments and new technology to study the moon.
The Orbiter, which has a mission life of a year, will orbit the moon and take images of the lunar surface and help create 3D maps of it. The Lander was carrying a Rover in its belly and was meant to parachute onto the lunar surface. After a successful soft landing on the lunar surface, it was to send out a robotic rover to conduct experiments. The rover would have traveled up to a half a kilometer from the lander in search of water and minerals and measure moonquakes among other things. It would have sent data and images back to Earth for analysis.
Why has the moon’s south pole suddenly become a hot spot for exploration?
India isn’t the only one trying to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole. The American space agency, NASA and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin company are all planning missions to this new hot spot.
Data from the previous missions have indicated that the permanently shadowed places on the south pole could contain ice and other minerals, which would be vital for setting up a base on the moon. This ice could be a potential source of drinking water for astronauts visiting the moon, but also could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen could be used to provide breathable air and oxygen and hydrogen could be used as rocket fuel. The mountain peaks near the pole are illuminated for large periods of time and could be used to provide solar energy to a moon base.
Thus, the moon could serve as a base for scientists can test technologies and spacecraft to refill their tanks before heading out into the solar system for future deep space exploration missions
What was the Chandrayaan-1 mission?
Yes, Chandrayaan-2 is a follow up the Chandrayaan-1 mission which was the first Indian lunar probe. It launched in October 2008 and conducted a detailed search for water on the Moon using radars. It helped confirm water molecules on the earth’s surface and operated until August 2009.