It was during the final 2.1 km descent to the lunar surface, that ISRO’s lander ‘Vikram’ lost its communication link. However, not all is lost according to the former project director of the Chandrayaan mission M. Annadurai. The scientist, in an interview with L Rajagopal, for The New Sunday Express, says there is still hope of ISRO re-establishing contact with the lander. Excerpts...
In your opinion, what happened to Vikram?
Abnormal speeds were witnessed during the descent, there are doubts if the lander withstood the effects of these speeds.
What is the current status of the lander?
At present, we have only lost the signal. The chances of the lander emitting a signal again is high. Remember, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is still out there and when it is linear to the orbiter, communication could be reestablished.
How will this process work?
The manoeuvres were planned keeping many scenarios in mind. We planned a system through which the lander could still send signals directly to the orbiter, which would then transmit it to Earth. We considered the possibility of the lander falling into a deep crater and put this system into place. There is every possibility of the lander falling into a crater.
Can Vikram manoeuvre itself to a normal position?
Yes. There have been instances like this in the past where landers came back to a normal position on their own. If this happens, it will start emitting signals.
How long will it take to confirm the present position?
Within a week, the Orbiter would start sending photos, based on which we can confirm Vikram’s position. If Vikram is in a minor crater, it would be able to transmit signals. However, the present situation is critical.
Is there any possibility of building landers that can withstand crash landings?
No. The four legs attached to a lander can withstand normal speeds (one metre per second). If the speed is abnormal, there is no chance of it surviving.
How would ISRO emerge from this episode?
Failures are not new to the ISRO. The SLV 3 (Satellite launch vehicle), PSLV and GSLV all witnessed failures at the first attempt.
Would there be an inquiry?
Yes, a failure analysis committee would be formed.