We may have lost the battle but the pursuit of science continues

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1.3 billion Indians had heartbreak this morning when they got to know the fate of Chandrayaan-2. Not to forget, of these 1.3 billion, several million were on their toes into the wee hours of the morning and were hoping to witness the historic landing of Chandrayaan 2 live. However, what happened was unplanned and shocking. Instead of landing at the latitude of about 70 degrees South, on a highland between the craters Manzinus C and Simpelius N on the lunar surface, the lander Vikram met with uncertainty and silence in the final few minutes before the touchdown.

With this, what was supposed to be an unparalleled success, became a failure (by 2.1 km in 384,400 km voyage). Keeping the statistics in mind, it is hard for heart and mind to call this mission a FAILURE. Also, still we are analyzing the data, it is still a possibility that lander Vikram and rover Pragyaan have successfully landed on the surface and it’s just that we have lost communication with them.

No official confirmation about the final status of Chandrayaan 2

Dr. K Sivan, ISRO Chairman made an announcement minutes after the agency lost contact with lander Vikram. He said, “We have lost contact…, and we are going over the flight data to see what happened.” Since the probe lost its contact in the very last moment, there is a possibility (although negligible) that the lander Vikram is still in the working condition and if ISRO manages to get the communication system back online, we are back again.

Space is dangerous

ISRO could have chosen an easy task and have chosen to land on the equatorial site of the Moon but it chose the other way. There chose the unexplored spot on the South Polar Region for the very first landing. As Dr. Kalam always said, “Small aim is a crime.” This is not the first time a satellite has crashed minutes before touch down, a similar accident also happened with the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet earlier this year.

Chandrayaan-2 was a complex mission

“Soft Landing” which ISRO was trying to do was supposed to be such that it preserves all the instruments on board while landing. To achieve this, first the Vikram lander had to begin slow down the speed at 30 km, this was called “braking” and then at the height of 7 km, it had to perform “fine braking.” This was to ensure that aircraft would slow down enough and drifting on last few meters was supposed to be done just using microgravity. This procedure is followed because rocket boosters can’t be fired too low from the ground else spacecraft could topple with the blowback. This procedure obviously is very tricky and precise. That why Dr. Sivan called it the “15-minute window of terror”.

Vikram lander was not the “only” mission

There are no two ways about the fact that Vikram lander and its cargo which included Pragyaan rover were critical components of the Chandrayaan-2 mission. But it is equally important to note that there weren’t the only components of the mission. Another critical part, the Orbiter is circling around the Moon and will continue to do so for another year. On the contrary, both Vikram lander and Pragyaan rover were supposed to operate for just a lunar day which is equal to 14 Earth days.  

Failure is a blessing in disguise

Just because we have failed to land on the Moon this time, it doesn’t mean this is the end of the world. Now, that we almost made to the Moon, we exactly know what went wrong with this time and should learn a lesson from this mission and come back to Moon again with Chandrayaan-3.

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