Vikram lander hit lunar surface, did not soft-land on Moon, says ISRO chief

Sivan did not mention where exactly the Vikram lander was located, but an ISRO scientist said it 'was just a few meters away from the intended landing site'. 

Published: 08th September 2019 02:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2019 12:32 AM   |  A+A-

Vikram lander successfully completed its rough braking phase with its descent speed going down well.

The 2,379 kg Chandrayaan-2 orbiter continues to fly around the moon (Photo | PTI)

By Online Desk

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief, K Sivan on Sunday said that they have traced the location of Vikram Lander on the lunar surface.

He added that the orbiter has clicked a thermal image of Lander. However, they are still trying to restore communication. 

"We are trying to have contact. It will be communicated soon," Sivan told ANI.

Sivan did not mention where exactly the lander was located, but an ISRO scientist said it “was just a few meters away from the intended landing site". 

Although he has not confirmed which of the two onboard cameras was used, it is likely that it was the Orbiter High-Resolution Camera (OHRC), which has the capability of capturing images over the course of two orbits, covering an area of 12 km x 3 km with a ground resolution of 0.32 m.

However, the ISRO chief also said that the landing must have been a hard one.

"Yes, we have located the lander on the lunar surface. It must have been a hard-landing", Sivan told PTI.

ALSO READ | Chandrayaan 2: Vikram lander tumbled and crashed on moon, say ISRO sources

Asked if the lander was 'damaged" during the 'hard landing", Sivan said: "That we do not know".

But some space experts said Vikram suffering damage in the hard-landing cannot be ruled out.

"It may not have landed at a desired level of velocity. It may not have landed on its four legs. Impact shock may have caused damage to the lander", according to a space official.

"When the system does not work well, it (the lander) will go and hit the Moon. There is no ambiguity in that", another veteran space expert said.

"Unless all the things are compensated. Compensating gravity, it (the lander) will not come down smoothly and touch the surface. That's the critical part of the whole manoeuvre", he said.

A senior ISRO official said time was running out and the possibility of re-establishing communication looks "less and less probable".

"Progressively. As time goes by. It's difficult (establish link)", the official said but added that with the "right orientation" it can still generate power and recharge batteries with solar panels.

"But it looks less and less probable, progressively", the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to ISRO, 90 to 95 per cent of the Chandrayaan-2 mission objectives have been accomplished and it will continue to contribute to lunar science, notwithstanding the loss of communication with the lander.

The officials of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) agree to the possibility of an event of lander Vikram tumbling and regaining its posture minutes before it was supposed to set its legs on the lunar surface.

All was going well with the 1,471 kg Vikram that had begun its descent at about 1.38 a.m. on Saturday from an altitude of 30 km at a velocity of 1,680 metres per second.

The lander was coming down smoothly, making the ISRO officials applaud at regular intervals with their faces beaming with pride, as they were glued to their computer monitors. The lander successfully completed its rough braking phase with its descent speed going down well.

The space agency also said the precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost seven years, instead of the planned one year for the orbiter.

ALSO READ | Chandrayaan 2 data will aid the march to moon

On the telemetry screen at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) centre in Bengaluru, it was noticed that Vikram had slightly veered away from its plotted path but had immediately come back. Soon after, Vikram again shifted from its planned path and then the communication link got snapped.

Sivan also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address and the outpouring of support and kind words for ISRO have boosted the morale of its scientists and engineers.

"We are extremely happy (the PMs address as well as nation rallying behind ISRO). It has boosted the morale of our people", Sivan told PTI.

"We are so touched," former ISRO Chairman K Kasturirangan said.

"The country has given a good, positive response. PM was incredible yesterday", as he praised Modi for inspiring, encouraging and reassuring Sivan and ISRO team and fully backing them.

"The way he (PM) conveyed it. So passionate. So emotional and sometimes rich with meanings and positive responses. I think we could not have expected anything better. Fantastic", he told PTI.

"We are definitely grateful to the nation and PM", said another former ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar, who noted that there are hundreds and thousands of variations that were possible for the soft-landing mission, as he underlined the complexities of the mission.

"We appreciate that the country and people were able to actually take note of this and continue to give their support. So, its very positive. We are grateful to the entire country", he said.

On Saturday, announcing the snapping of communication links, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan said the performance of the lander was as per the plan till it was 2.1 km away from its designated landing spot on the Moon's the South Pole.

The communication link got snapped after that. The data is being analysed, he added. The lander could communicate with the orbiter and also with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) in Byalu near Bengaluru.

ALSO READ| The tears are temporary, our Sivan will bounce back, says ISRO chief's uncle

The announcement lent a ray of hope among Indians, with many of them expressed their emotions on social media. 

From Twitter to Facebook, netizens expressed a range of sentiments -- pride, curiosity, hope and patriotism -- and many shared pictures of the lander or the Indian tricolour.

Notwithstanding the scientific intricacies of it all, the news sent waves of cheer among the Twitterati as they could not contain their excitement, and #VikramLanderFound began to trend worldwide on the microblogging site.

"Chandrayaan-2: ISRO has found out the exact location of Vikram Lander on the lunar surface. The orbiter has clicked a thermal image of Lander. Communication yet to be established. Come on Vikram lander. Come on," @AskAnshul tweeted.

Even the government of Israel's official Twitter account said, "Israel followed #VikramLander's ambitious journey to the moon with great hope".

"As we learned from Israel's Beresheet lunar lander, it's never easy, and yet it's a great achievement for #ISRO & Indian science. We're positive that #India will reach the moon (& beyond)!," it tweeted.

"#VikramLanderFound ISRO-- where are you? Lander Vikram -- on the moon ISRO -- say something. Lander rover -- , " Sanjeev Gangwar, another user tweeted.

User @onlydimbe shared a clip from the climax scene in the movie 'Chak De India' where the main protagonist gets emotionally overwhelmed, saying, "Every Indian Right now #VikramLander #VikramLanderFound".

Ayon Bhattacharjee, tweeted, "#VikramLanderFound Lander Vikram Located on Moon Surface, trying for communication," and shared two banners, one showing a lunar surface, and the other bearing the word hope in bold letters.

In between, many also posted humour-laden tweets, to acknowledge the landing as reported by ISRO.

But, the feeling of hope and pride in all tweets was unmistakable.

"When I was a kid, I saw people in tears when India lost in cricket. Last night I saw a lot of people in tears because the Vikram lander failed. Doesn't that tell a story of changing India. When kids can spend a sleepless night for the scientific endeavour, India is winning. Jai Hind" wrote @ayonbh.

(With ENS and Agencies inputs)

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