Chandrayaan 2: As the Sun sets on Moon and ISRO’s Vikram Lander, are hopes still alive?

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Published: September 20, 2019 1:46:05 PM

ISRO's Chandrayaan 2: It was already lunar dusk in the landing region of the Vikram lander at the time when NASA's Orbiter passed over it.

Chandrayaan 2, ISRO's chandrayaan 2, Vikram LanderChandrayaan 2: The south polar region of the Moon will enter the Lunar night after September 21. (Image: ISRO)

Chandrayaan 2 Vikram Lander News: The clock is ticking and now with just hours left to re-establish communication with the Vikram lander, the sun is setting on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The south polar region of the Moon will enter the Lunar night after September 21 and with the Sun setting in that area of the Moon, all the hopes for ISRO to communicate with its Lander will fade away. According to experts, the lunar night (which will last for 14 Earth days) will be setting-in at the Vikram’s hard landing site by Saturday and with this, the temperature in the region will plunge below minus 180-degree Celsius. Experts believe that it is totally impractical to even think of Vikram lander working under the influence of such a harsh temperature.

An examination is being carried out by a national committee and ISRO experts in order to understand the cause of loss of communication with the Vikram lander during the soft landing process. The incident occurred in the wee hours of September 7 at around 0153 hours IST. The landing module of India’s second Moon-mission stopped responding to the ISRO at this hours during the powered descent while it was just around 300 meters above the lunar surface.

NASA, which has sent a passive payload on Chandrayaan-2 mission, is also assisting ISRO and is attempting to gather as much information about the landing part of the mission as possible. The NASA scientists are in the process of analysing data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that passes over the landing site of Vikram lander while orbiting the Moon on September 17.

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According to a NASA official, the camera onboard, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has acquired images of the areas around the targeted landing site. But, as the exact location of the lander was unknown, there are possibilities that Vikram lander may not have been captured by the LRO’s camera.

The south polar region of the Moon is already a light deficit zone due to the small inclination the Moon on its axis. Also, as the lunar night approaches it makes the lighting condition poorer which further reduced the chance of spotting the Vikram Lander. It was already lunar dusk in the landing region of the Vikram lander at the time when NASA’s Orbiter passed over it.

The good news for ISRO is that due to the very precise placement of the Orbiter module of Chandrayaan 2 which is going around the moon in a nearly 100-km circular orbit and is performing as per expectations. As a result of this, the Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter will have an extended life of as many as 7 years instead of planned 1 year. The Orbiter module will continue collecting data during this duration and help ISRO extract crucial information about the Moon.

ISRO in a tweet on Thursday informed that all the payloads of the Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter are working as expected. This was the first time since September 10 that ISRO made a statement related to the Vikram lander.

READ | Chandrayaan 2: ISRO breaks silence on Vikram Lander; here’s what it said

ISRO had earlier informed that it was successful in capturing thermal images of the hard landed Vikram on the lunar surface and analysis was underway. The agency has been trying to re-establish communication to the Vikram Lander by all means possible.

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