Hyderabad: India’s Chandrayaan2 mission’s attempt to successfully place its lander on the moon appeared to have run into some unexpected glitches with a sudden break in communication between the Vikram lander and the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru leaving everyone present, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tense.
It was not certain whether Chandrayaan managed to land safely owing to a communication breakdown between the spacecraft and ISRO’s earth station.
ISRO Chairman K Sivan informed around 2.15 that the descent was flawless upto 2.1 km from the surface when contact was lost. “The data is being analysed,” he said.
The Vikram lander had performed flawless until it completed the rough breaking procedure that brought it very close to the lunar surface and it was just after the fine braking sequence began, moments before the scheduled touchdown, that the communication with the lander was lost.
As ISRO scientists frantically worked to figure out what was happening, ISRO chairman had a quick brief for Modi. Experts said the desired format of fine breaking may not have happened. Only actual imagery would reveal as to what exactly happened or went wrong.
Modi said: “It was no small achievement. Be courageous.”
As the clock struck 1.53 a.m on Saturday, and the minutes after that passed by, tense faces replaced those before that had anticipation written large over them, with uncertainty over the soft landing of Chandrayaan2’s Vikram lander on the surface of the moon.
And ISRO scientists at their headquarters in Bengaluru, along with a millions of Indians watching the Chandrayaan-2 mission unfold on countless televisions screens in the country, were left in the dark as it became clear that something was not right. The 15-minutes of terror – the nail-biting period during which the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 mission operated on its own using a preset series of commands and its artificial intelligence ensuring a successful and safe placing on the lunar surface of the Vikram lander – in the end turned into just what they were, 15 minutes of terror that turned into a much longer period of serious anxiety.
It was at 1.38 a.m., Saturday, that ISRO scientists sent the command for the lander to do its job – find a perfect location using its artificial intelligence to avoid boulders, rocks or little craters, and then of course, land safely.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to witness India creating history, along with 60 students from different schools across the country who earned a place to watch history being made after having won their spots through an online nation-wide quiz. This was to be a night for them all to remember forever for a successful landing on the moon.
At the cusp of the landing late on Friday night, at around 10.30 p.m., ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan said he was confident everything will go well.
India’s pioneering effort was to seek to land Vikram in the cooler southern polar region of the moon, which receives little sunlight, and to push the boundaries of lunar exploration. No other country has attempted to land on that part of the moon, which Indian scientists believe, holds water.