India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander lost signal with the mission control when it was 2.1 km away from touchdown. The gloom at the mission centre in Bengaluru spoke volumes indicating failure. “The lander’s controls were normal till 2.1 km from lunar surface. We are analysing the data,” said ISRO chief K Sivan.
It was after a 48-day journey, through three orbital manoeuvring components (earth orbit, trans lunar orbit, and lunar orbit) that the Chandrayaan-2 mission reached the Moon to land at the designated location between two craters of Manzinus C and Simpelius N near the lunar south pole.
The mission took off after an initial hiccup when the earlier launch date of July 15 had to be deferred by a week to July 22 following the timely detection of a technical snag in one of the fuel tanks of the GSLV Mk III M1 launcher.
Action began in the lander’s automated mode from about 100 km above lunar surface when the lander Vikram proceeded towards the set location with its burners horizontal to the surface. As it descended to 30 km altitude, the thrusters on the lander broke the speed to 1.6 km per second.
Vikram was designed to tilt 90 degrees to point the burners towards the ground. Upon completion of the tilt, the onboard cameras and the detectors surveyed the surface before the lander entered the hovering and landing phase using the central thrust to buffer its landing.
The six-wheeled rover Pragyaan would have left imprints of ISRO and Ashoka Chakra on the surface of the moon after rolling out of lander Vikram, which was scheduled to take place between 5.30 am and 6.30 am on Saturday.
The progress of the Rs 978 crore Chadrayaan-2 mission is tracked from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking & Command Network (ISTRAC) in Peenya, Bengaluru. The 1,471-kg lander, named after the father of Indian Space programme, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, was designed to conduct experiments on the lunar surface for 1 lunar day.
From 3.8 lakh km away from the Earth, lander Vikram had the ability to directly communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network at Bylalu near Bengaluru.