Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan’s description of the last 15 minutes of the pre-landing phase of Vikram as ‘terror’ proved to be prophetic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the ISRO Monitoring Centre just before the descent was about to begin. The first part of the powered descent of Vikram lander was the Rough Breaking phase. While this was successfully completed, the next hurdle was the Fine Breaking phase.
At this juncture, the anxiety in the room increased manifold. As the expected deadline for landing was breached, there was further uncertainty. Several experts in the field across the world started expressing their opinion. Dr. Jessie Christiansen, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research scientist wrote on microblogging website Twitter that the signal was not being received from the Vikram lander. She also expressed her concern for the ISRO scientists who had worked so hard on this Mission.
Kristian Walbort, associated with the NASA also tweeted that the Vikram lander was not transmitting a signal to the Deep Space Station antenna. There was also a buzz that Vikram had diverted from its planned trajectory to land on the Moon. Finally, there was an official update from the ISRO Chairman K Sivan. According to him, the descent of the Vikram lander was normal up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, there was a loss of communication between Vikram and the Earth. He also mentioned that the available data was being scrutinized.
Chandrayaan 1, India's first lunar mission was launched in 2008. However, what differentiates the current mission from the previous one is its scope. Chandrayaan 2 seeks to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, a feat achieved by only the United States of America, Russia, and China. The Mission is unique in the sense that it seeks to land on the Moon's South Polar side. Its Lander weighing 1471 kilograms is named 'Vikram' after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India's space programme. The landing spot for Vikram is between Manzinus C and Simpelius N, two craters near the Moon’s South Pole at 70.9°S latitude, 22.7°E longitude. Chandrayaan 2 is one of the most challenging missions as it is going to land in the rugged territory.
Towards the final moments of the historic feat, just before it landed on the surface of the Moon, the mission suffered some technical glitches. As it stands, ISRO's Twitter handle shared that they have lost communication at 3:00am IST. Speaking about the situation, ISRO Chairman K Sivan confirmed in a statement that contact with Vikram was lost at about 2.1 kilometers above the Moon's surface and added that the ground station is analysing the data.
This is Mission Control Centre. #VikramLander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, communication from Lander to the ground stations was lost. Data is being analyzed.#ISRO— ISRO (@isro) September 6, 2019
#IndiaOnTheMoon | Descent of Vikram Lander was as planned, subsequently, the communication was lost, data being analysed: K Sivan, ISRO Chief— Republic (@republic) September 6, 2019
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