Today, the major effort of India to join the select countries viz. USA, Russia, and China for a successful soft touch down on the Lunar Surface has been seemingly postponed by few years.
Space is difficult and, for that matter, expensive with few countries possessing the means to have a major space program. Today, the major effort of India to join the select countries viz. USA, Russia, and China for a successful soft touch down on the Lunar Surface has been seemingly postponed by few years. However, experts feel that technical glitches in Space mission of high complexity (like lunar landings) are part and parcel of Research work. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shall bounce back soon, and the Chandrayaan-2 mission shall always remain a brilliant effort by the agency’s scientific community, they opine.
What Experts say
Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Head Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative, ORF, sharing her views says, “A successful Chandrayaan 2 mission is an important milestone for India’s space program. India’s previous missions such as the Chandrayaan 1 and Mangalyaan had sent orbiters around the Moon and Mars respectively. Chandrayaan 2’s soft landing on the south polar region of the Moon would have put India in a small exclusive group of countries – the US, Russia, and China – which have achieved this feat. ISRO making the first attempt to land on a region that has not been mapped before demonstrates the self-confidence and conviction of the ISRO leadership.
Watch video: Chandrayaan 2 Vikram landing glitch: PM Modi hugs & consoles ISRO chief in heart-warming gesture
“Another attraction about Chandrayaan 2 is that it is entirely indigenous, reflecting the growing sophistication of India’s space prowess. This is truly a remarkable achievement for India,” says the distinguished fellow at ORF.
In the words of Milind Kulshreshtha, Artificial Intelligence and C4I expert, “Lander Vikram’s smooth and close to accurate soft touch down effort on the lunar surface was interrupted in the final phase by an anomalous trajectory deviation and sudden telemetry signal loss (for health status). The clear hovering phase could not be identified in the telemetry updates from the Lander, though formal analysis, was in progress at the time of writing this article.” explains.
Kulshreshtha says that “The touchdown descent was designed as a completely computerised autonomous procedure under execution by the Lander, and to be only passively monitored activity at the ISRO’s Control Centre. After its 48 days of highly controlled journey, the 1,471Kg Lander’s South Pole soft landing was always known to be the most difficult phase of the Mission. However, the Orbiter continues to maintain the specified trajectory and has the capability to give results.”
Sharing his views Carter Palmer, Space and I&M Analyst, at the US-based think tank Forecast International Inc., says that India has demonstrated over the years that they have the ability to join the likes of China, Russia and the US beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The Indian space program also serves a deeper purpose.
“The ISRO, in general, fits into the “Make in India” initiative that is currently prevalent within the country. Rather than rely on foreign products and technologies, India is actively pursuing a policy of utilizing homegrown industry to fulfil their various needs and build intellectual capital. The indigenous Tejas fighter, which is under development, is an example of the “Make in India” movement,” he adds.
According to Palmer, “The space program also serves the military, as India demonstrated with its shoot-down of a satellite in March 2019. The Chandrayaan-2 mission is different as it also serves to bolster national pride.” Landing on the moon, as the Israeli organization SpaceIL found out, is no easy task. The Chandrayaan-2 mission has so far been a success and is now in orbit. With the landing scheduled for September 7, 2019, India has an opportunity to bring the world information regarding lunar water, the US-based analyst points out.
Whether the mission is a success, failure or somewhere in the middle, Chandrayaan-2 will have further cemented India’s place among those countries pushing the boundaries of what is possible, he adds.
Watched #Chandrayaan2Live last night and was heartbroken
The reaction of #PMModi was indeed most reassuring✊✌️
— WingCoMats (@AbhishekMatiman) September 7, 2019
Ratan Shrivastava, Independent Consultant, Aerospace, Defence & Space, says “The subsystem– Lander / Rover duo, Vikram and Pragyaan, were to set foot at the Southern hemisphere,70.9* S latitude, about 600 Kms, from the South Pole of the moon, where no country has gone before and has evidence of ice and water in the dark shadowy craters of south polar region.”
According to him, for the current status of the Chandrayaan 2 mission, one can only presumably speculate, if one or more of the retro engine(s) has malfunctioned during the descent, which led to the angle of descent and rate of descent not going as per planned parameters, in autonomous mode. It is possible that Vikram may still have landed but could get damaged/tilted. The extent of damage will decide the next course of action, if Rover may roll out and start communicating with the lander.
“It’s only when the pictures from the Orbitor, of the site of landing (soft or otherwise) are revealed with evidence and analysis, that we will we know what went through and what did not, “he points out.
According to him the mission has not failed, as the Orbitor is functional, in the designated orbit above the lunar surface, with a mission life of one year. It will be using its scientific payloads, to continue studying, sending images and data with its X Ray Spectrometer, solar X-Ray monitor, a SAR for mapping the surface of the moon, an Atmospheric Compositional Explorer to study the exosphere of the moon and its ionosphere and other scientific experiments mandated for its life span or as long as the fuel lasts – which could be more than a year as well.
“We may recall, it was an instrument, aboard an Orbitor (Chandryaan 1) which mapped the surface of the southern hemisphere and South Pole of the moon. And a probe, carried by Chandrayaan 1, that conclusively proved the presence of ice and water, on the dark shadowy craters of the Moon,” Shrivastava points out.