Chandrayaan-2 achieved 90-95% objectives despite last minute setback: ISRO
Notwithstanding ISRO’s ambitious bid to create history failing at the last hurdle, the entire nation — that had kept awake through the night to witness the historic moment of Vikram’s soft landing on the unexplored south pole of the moon — backed the space agency to the hilt even as scientists on Saturday maintained that Chandrayaan-2 achieved 90-95 per cent of its mission objectives.
In fact, ISRO said Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter, whose mission life was planned for just one year, could now last for seven years due to the precise launch and mission management and it will help in the understanding of the moon’s evolution, mapping of its minerals and water molecules in the Polar Regions. ISRO chief K Sivan attributed the extension of lifespan to the “extra fuel” right now available in the orbiter. “Right now the communication is lost, we will try to establish a link for the next 14 days,” he said.
The 2,379-kg orbiter’s camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3 m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images, immensely useful to the global scientific community, it said.
A senior ISRO official, however, said, the four-legged lander and the six-wheeled rover “Pragyan” housed inside that was planned for a rollout between 5.30 am and 6.30 am may have been lost.
This was a unique mission which aimed at studying not just one area of the moon but all the areas combining the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface of the moon in a single mission, stated ISRO, which got the backing of the global scientific communities as well.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had watched the proceedings from ISRO’s Mission Control Centre, along with some 60-odd schoolchildren, led from the front to boost the morale of the scientists and later also hugged a visibly crestfallen ISRO chairman K Sivan to console and encourage him. The hug video has since gone viral. “There will be a new dawn and better tomorrow. The best is yet to come in our space programme. India is with you,” the PM told the scientists.
“I didn’t want to add to your stress by being around when I saw that things didn’t go exactly as planned, which is why I left and gave you all some time to gather your thoughts and emotions,” PM Modi told the scientists in his second address in less than six hours.
“We came very close but we need to cover more ground in the times to come. Learning from today will make us stronger and better. The nation is proud of our space programme and scientists. The best is yet to come in our space programme. There are new frontiers to discover and new places to go. India is with you,” Modi said adding the nation is proud of the scientists and stands with them.
ISRO had planned to make India the first country to achieve a soft landing on the south pole on the grounds that the lunar surface area that remains in shadow there is much larger than that at the north pole and there is a possibility of presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. The south pole region also has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System, ISRO maintained.
Former ISRO Chairman and former Secretary in the Department of Space G Madhavan Nair said Chandrayaan-2 has achieved 95 per cent of its mission objectives. “Already, orbiter is in space and it should do an excellent job of mapping,” he said. The Rs 978-crore Chandrayaan-2 Mission was conceived a decade ago.
NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger, who flew on Russian space station Mir that operated in low Earth orbit, said the lessons learned from India’s “bold attempt” to soft land Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram module on the lunar surface will help the country during its future missions.
The process of controlled descent started with the rough braking of the 1,471-kg lander named after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, father of the Indian space programme, its progression to fine braking (till the altitude of 2.1 km), all considered “complex and terrifying,” culminated with a statement by ISRO’s chairman in a choked voice that contact with ‘Vikram’ was lost. A mood of gloom descended over the control centre after the ISRO Chairman’s announcement.
Millions of people globally waited with bated breath to witness the lander’s touch down after the mission was launched on July 22 to flawlessly cover nearly 4 lakh kilometres in 47 days in multiple manoeuvres.
The last-minute glitch, however, will not impact ISRO’s other ongoing plans, officials said. ISRO plans to send three Indians to space by 2022 and launch Aditya L-1, India’s first solar mission, by next year. There are also plans to build a space station and launch interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus.
Sunday, 08 September 2019 | PNS | Bengaluru/New Delhi
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