New Delhi: ISRO’s plan to soft land Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram module on the Lunar surface did not go as per script in the early hours of Saturday, with the lander losing communication with ground stations during its final descent.
The “terrifying 15 minute” complex landing process, which commenced with a lot of expectation, tinged with a sense of jubiliation was going on well till the successful rough braking phase which was marked by rounds of applause.
When the top ISRO scientists including its chief Sivan looked glum soon after the subsequent fine braking phase commenced, it was the first indication that all was not well.
Later, Sivan made the announcement that communication was lost with the lander, while Modi boosted the morale of the scientists asking them not to lose hope.
Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, communication from the lander to ground stations was lost, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said.
“The data is being analysed”, he added at the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) here as disappointment was writ large on the faces of ISRO scientists.
Prime Minister Modi, who flew into Bengaluru on Friday night to watch the planned touchdown of Vikram, told ISRO scientists not to get dejected and disheartened and said the country was proud of them.
“I see disappointment on your faces. No need to get dejected. We have learnt a lot,” Modi said. “These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be! We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme”.
ISRO later tweeted that the Prime Minister will address the nation from ISRO Control Centre on Saturday at 8 am.
The 1,471-kg ‘Vikram’, named after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, father of the Indian space programme, was designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface, and to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 earth days.