The Indian Space Research Organization has found its missing lunar lander, called Vikram, on the Moon’s surface one day after the space agency announced that they have lost communication during its historic attempt of landing on the Moon.
ISRO Chief K Sivan on Saturday informed that the space agency has located the Vikram Lander on moon’s surface and are trying to establish with the lunar lander in hopes of continuing the space mission.
K Sivan told ANI, “ISRO has found the location of its Vikram Lander on Moon’s surface and Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter has clicked a thermal image of the lander.” However, Sivan added that there is still no communication with the lander. “ISRO is trying to establish contact with the lander. It will be communicated soon,” Sivan added.
The ISRO will be trying to establish the connection and communicate with the lander within the next 14 days — or one lunar day, which was the supposed life span of the lander and the rover called Pragyan that is tucked inside the belly of Vikram.
The discovery of the lander on the moon’s surface now gives the ISRO renewed hope that the space agency may carry on with its intended in-depth probe over the lunar surface through Pragyan.
Earlier in the mission, the ISRO’s bid of making the country’s first lunar soft landing suffered a setback after it reported to have lost all communications with Vikram moments while it was making its powered descent on the Moon.
The Vikram lander was just 2.1 kilometers above the Lunar surface and was 13 minutes into its landing process when the communication snap took place, the ISRO regarded this as “15 minutes of terror.”
Fortunately, Vikram and Pragyan were only two-thirds of the mission and the orbiter was still fully functional and continued to circle the Moon. Chandrayaan 2’s Orbiter has then successfully clicked the thermal image of Vikram lander.
Now, the ISRO says that the role of Chandrayaan 2 will be extremely critical in the next few days as they will continue to try to re-connect with Vikram. India’s Prime minister Narendra Modi encouraged the ISRO scientists after the scheduled landing of Vikram Lander did not go as per their plans and said that the “nation stands with you”.
“We came very close, but we will need to cover more ground in the times to come,” Modi said during an address to the nation that was webcast live Friday night (Saturday morning India time). “As important as the final result is the journey and the effort. I can proudly say that the effort was worth it, and so was the journey.”
Launched on July 22, Chandrayaan-2 had successfully completed Earth and moon orbits and was set to execute a controlled landing on the lunar south pole, a previously unexplored region.
The mission was intended to build upon the initial findings of the first Chandrayaan mission, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, among other things.
The country’s first Moon mission – Chandrayaan-1 – was carried out in 2008, which was also the first and most detailed search for water on the lunar surface using radars.
Initially, before ISRO announced that they have found the Vikram lander, the space agency has indicated that they will proceed with mission nevertheless and even intended to send crewed missions to the moon in 2022.
Pallava Bagla, a science editor, said the mission would not be considered a failure. Pointing to Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter, which has a mission life of a year, he said, “Fifty percent of the mission is already successful and functional.”
The orbiter is in a 100×100-kilometer lunar polar orbit where it is expected to operate for one year. Its eight payloads include a Terrain Mapping Camera, which will produce a 3D map for studying lunar mineralogy and geology. It also carries an X-ray spectrometer, solar X-ray monitor, imaging spectrometer, and a high-resolution camera.
India’s mission comes as other nations and companies are eyeing the lunar surface. This year, China landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, a first on that part of the moon as well as the country’s attempt of doing so.
Of the 38 soft-landing attempts made on the moon, only about half have succeeded. In April, Israel attempted to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface, only to fail in the final moments.
India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission was poised to be the fourth nation to land on the moon after the United States, Russia, and China.