By: Radhakrishna NS
HOPES to salvage the lander-rover, part of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, are fading with the window of opportunity to restore a link with ‘Vikram’ closing in about a week’s time.
Lander Vikram, with rover Pragyan housed inside it, lost communication with ground-station early on September seven during its final descent, just 2.1 kilometres (kms) above the lunar surface, minutes before the planned touch-down on the Moon.
Efforts to reestablish the link has been going on since then.
On September 8, the Indian space agency, ISRO said the lander was spotted on the lunar surface by camera on-board of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter.
Vikram had a hard-landing.
The lander, designed to execute a soft-landing on the lunar surface, and rover have a mission life of one Lunar day, which is equivalent to 14 earth days — that means ISRO now has just over a week to spring Vikram back to life.
“Progressively, you can imagine that it becomes that much more difficult, with each passing hour, the available power on the battery gets drained out, and there won’t be anything left for it to power and operate”, an ISRO official told.
“With every passing minute, the situation becomes worse only…less and less probable (to establish contact with Vikram”, he said.
“It looks more and more remote only”, the official said when asked if there was a slender chance of re-establishing the link.
A team at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network here has been desperately trying to restore the link with the lander.
“With the right orientation, it can still generate power and recharge batteries with solar panels. But it looks less and less probable, progressively,” the official said.
Another top ISRO official said “hard-landing” of Vikram on the Lunar surface has made the task of linking again with it that much difficult as it may not have the “right orientation (to receive signals)”. “Impact shock may have caused damage to the lander,” he claimed.
ISRO has commented on the condition of the 1,471-kg lander of Chandrayaan-2 first Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology and named after Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme.
Chandrayaan-2’s 27-kg rover Pragyan, which translates to ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, is a six-wheeled robotic vehicle.
The lander carried three scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface science experiments, while the rover carried two payloads to enhance our understanding of the lunar surface, according to ISRO.