Just before the planned automated touchdown, Vikram lost communication with the Chandrayaan orbiter, which of course continues to send pictures of the moon’s surface from its high-resolution cameras, and was able to track down the lost rover through its thermal imagers.
Over three days of search, it has also located the lander, confirmed that it had a hard landing, was intact but not oriented to restore links with the orbiter, and accordingly the Mission Control.
Perhaps, that means ISRO will have to make another attempt.
ISRO is still analysing what went wrong. It has a 14-day window – that is 14 Earth Days equal to One Lunar Day – to understand what went wrong with Vikram’s automated soft-landing programme, and what made it go wrong. Was there a natural surface upheaval, like a storm or a quake? Or whatever!
Communication with the Lander cannot be restored, assuming it has not suffered any damage, till it is oriented to receive signals from the orbiter above. ISRO has a lot of data to analyse, hoping the celestial order does not make its moonquest a farther dream.
Another landing project could take 3 or 4 years.
ISRO, which happens to mark 50 years of its inception, has done well nonetheless, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present at the Mission Control for the final moments of the Chandrayaan mission, expressed admiration for the ISRO scientists and promised government’s support to realise India’s dreams.
Said ISRO: “Chandrayaan 2 mission was a highly complex mission, which represented a significant technological leap compared to the previous missions of ISRO to explore the unexplored.”
ISRO drew applause from the US NASA and French CNES, which helped Indian space scientists in the early years. Notably, France trained about 20 engineers from IITs and Engineering Colleges in India in space research from the 1960s and they became the foundational pool of talent for ISRO.
France has not gone to the moon but is regarded as capable of doing so. CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall observed: “In these difficult times, CNES and France stand with ISRO and India. Space is very difficult. India is a great space power. The journey continues.”
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