In what could be called a breather for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), images sent from Chandrayaan-2 orbiter show that the Vikram lander is intact and is in one piece after the hard-landing. The vessel is very close to the planned touch-down site but it is in a tilted position. The development has strengthened the hope of the scientists at the Indian space agency to establish a link with the lander.
‘It had a hard-landing very close to the planned (touch-down) site as per the images sent by the on-board camera of the orbiter. The lander is there as a single piece, not broken into pieces. It's in a tilted position. We are making all-out efforts to see whether communication can be re-established with the lander. An Isro team is on the job at ISROTelemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru,’ an ISRO official associated with the mission was quoted as saying.
Chandrayaan-2 mission comprises an orbiter, which was carrying a lander attached to it. The lander housed a rover (Pragyan) that was supposed to send data from the moon to Earth. The mission life of the vessel is of one Lunar Day, which is equivalent to 14 Earth days. The lander has solar panel around it, which means that generating power won’t be an issue. Further, Vikram also has ‘internal batteries’ which ‘are not used much.’
After completing initial landing phases, the ground control at ISRO lost communication with the lander when it was just 2.1km above the lunar surface. The orbiter located Vikram’s location and sent images to the ground control. After this, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said that the agency would keep on trying to restore link with the lander for 14 days. The update is likely to boost the morale of the scientists in establishing the connection with the vessel.
‘Unless and until everything is intact (lander), it's very difficult (to re-establish contact). Chances are less. Only if it had soft-landing, and if all systems functioned, then only communication can be restored. Things are bleak as of now,’ an ISRO official said. Another official rates restoring link with the lander as good, which means that we ISRO could still complete the mission.
‘But there are limitations. We have experience of recovering spacecraft (which had lost contact) in geostationary orbit. But here (in the case of Vikram), that kind of operational flexibility is not there. Already it's lying on the surface of the Moon, and we cannot reorient it. Vital thing is antennas will have to pointed towards the ground station or the orbiter. Such operation is extremely difficult. At the same time, chances are good and we will have to keep our fingers crossed,’ the official was quoted as saying.