Chandrayaan-2: The mission is an accomplishmentUpdated: Sep 09, 2019 09:30 IST
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) lost communication with Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander during its powered descent to the south pole of the moon, but India’s ~978-crore unmanned moon mission is far from over. With a planned life of one year, which may extend up to seven years, the Chandrayaan- 2 orbiter will continue to circle the moon, and send data on the unexplored south pole, which is believed to hold significant amounts of water hidden in ice craters. In 2008, Chandrayaan-1 had confirmed the presence of water ice on the moon. The follow-up mission was planned to study the moon’s surface over a lunar day of two weeks, but with the lander going incommunicado, the mission will now focus on information gathered by the orbiter, which on Sunday transmitted thermal images of the lander on the moon.
Soft landings, which Isro chairman K Sivan had earlier described as “15 minutes of terror”, are difficult because of the precise firing of the rocket engine needed to lower the lander carrying the rover down on the moon, which has no atmosphere. Only 37% soft landings so far have been successful. Several countries, conglomerate and private companies are spending millions to land on the lunar surface, but space is hard, as summed up by NASA. India’s frugal mission is an unprecedented accomplishment. To compare, the Chandrayaan-2 mission cost about $140 million, compared to at least $100 billion spent on Apollo missions by the United States. For now, how much water exists in lunar crators will remain a mystery, but with the orbiter streaming data that will, among other things, help identify the precise cause for the communication loss, India’s next soft landing attempt is likely to happen sooner than later.
First Published: Sep 09, 2019 09:30 IST