Enthusiasm turns into despair at mission operations complex

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by ISRO chairman K Sivan as the PM arrives to watch the live telecast of soft landing of lander Vikram of Chandrayaan 2 on lunar surface. Photo: PTI

Enthusiasm soon turned into a sense of despair at Isro’s Mission Operations Complex as India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2s lander Vikram lost communication with the ground stations on Saturday (September 7) just ahead of the soft landing.

The mission that started from July 22 with the launch of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft achieved one milestone after another in a phased manner.

However, the Vikram module lost contact minutes before the crucial touchdown on the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday.

The landing module, which was supposed to carry out various tests on the lunar soil, completed the rough braking phase as planned and entered the phase of fine braking phase
till the altitude of 2.1 km.

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There were cheers and clapping both at the mission control centre and the area where media was stationed, as Vikram’s descent was on as planned at that time.

But, disappointment was palpable on the faces of the Isro scientists within minutes as they stopped getting any communication from the lander.

Soon, Isro chief K Sivan approached his colleagues and started intense discussions, along with his predecessor A S Kiran Kumar. Sivan then went up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
who was seated in the gallery and communicated to him about what had happened.

Modi had arrived at Bengaluru by a special flight only to witness the soft-landing from here.
Sivans other predecessors K Radhakrishnan, K Kasturirangan joined the prime minister and patted Sivan on the shoulder to cheer him up.

Modi then got up from the seat and walked down to the place where Isro scientists and engineers were seated, and had a chat with them.

Also read | Excitement, jitters and frenzy as Chandrayaan-2 readies for touch down

Before departing, the Modi tried to boost the morale of the Isro team saying that the nation was proud of them.

Live telecast of soft landing of Vikram module of Chandrayaan 2 on lunar surface, in Bengaluru, Saturday. Photo: PTI

“There is no need to get disappointed because it is not a small achievement. The country is proud of you,” Modi said in his address to the scientists and students gathered there.

Gathering himself from the setback, Sivan made the announcement that communication has been lost with the lander.

Referring to the challenges in executing the soft landing of Vikram module named after the father of India’s space programme Vikram Sarabhai, Sivan had earlier termed it as “terrifying” moment, as the ISRO has not done it before.

He had noted the success rate of soft landing modules launched by other agencies had been only 37 per cent.

Also read | ‘Fifteen minutes of terror’ that await Isro on Saturday

Timeline of India’s second unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan -2

June 12: Isro Chairman K Sivan announces India’s second sojourn to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, would be launched on July 15.

June 29: Rover after completion of all tests integrated with lander Vikram.

June 29: Vikram lander (assembled with Pragyan Rover) integrated with Orbiter.

July 4: Integration of encapsulated assembly of Chandrayaan-2 with launch vehicle (GSLV MkIII-M1) completed.

July 7: GSLV MkIII-M1 moved to launch pad.

July 14: Countdown for GSLV MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 launch on July 15 commences.

July 15: Isro calls off Chandrayaan-2 launch as a technical snag is observed in launch vehicle system about one hour before blast-off.

July 18: Chandrayaan-2 launch rescheduled for July 22, at 2.43 pm from the second launch pad of SDSC, Sriharikota.

July 21: Countdown for GSLV MkIII-M1 /Chandrayaan-2 launch on July 22 commences.

July 22: GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully launches Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft.

July 24: First earth bound orbit raising manoeuvre for Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was performed successfully.

July 26: Second earth bound manoeuvre performed.

July 29: Third earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 2: Fourth earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 4: ISRO releases the first set of images of the earth captured by Chandrayaan-2 satellite.

August 6: Fifth earth bound manoeuvre performed.

August 14: Chandrayaan-2 successfully enters Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

August 20: Lunar Orbit Insertion. Chandrayaan-2 successfully inserted into Lunar orbit.

August 22: First set of pictures of Moon taken by Chandrayaan-2s LI4 Camera from an altitude of about 2,650 km from the lunar surface released by ISRO.

August 21: Second lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

August 26: Isro releases the second set of images of lunar surface captured by Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2) of Chandrayaan 2.

August 28: Third lunar bound orbit manoeuvre performed.

August 30: Fourth lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

September 1: Fifth and final lunar orbit manoeuvre performed.

September 2: Vikram lander successfully separates from Orbiter.

September 3: First de-orbiting manoeuvre performed to bring Vikram closer to the moon.

September 4: Second de-orbiting manoeuvre performed.

September 7: Vikram lander begins its powered descent, normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km, but loses contact with ground stations minutes before the crucial touchdown on the lunar surface.

Also read | Interactive graphic: Chandrayaan 2, India’s ambitious mission to moon