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Bengaluru: India’s first attempt to land on the Moon may have gone off-script but the ambitious Chandrayaan 2 mission has been far from a flop. With a mission life of one year, the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter remains in operation and will continue to study the Moon from afar.
“Only 5 per cent of the mission has been lost – Vikram the lander and Pragyan the rover – while the remaining 95 per cent – that is the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter – is orbiting the moon successfully,” an official of the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO told news agency IANS.
The orbiter can take several pictures of the moon and send it to the ISRO over the next year. The orbiter can take pictures of the lander to find out its status too, the ISRO official added. The rover inside the lander had a lifespan of only 14 days.
The successful launch of Chandrayaan 2 on board the giant GSLV Mark 3 rocket and its insertion in the lunar orbit will be seen as a testament to India’s frugal space programme. The accomplishment has been likened by experts to firing a bullet from a moving train towards a target on another moving train hundreds of thousands of kilometres apart.
The Chandrayaan 2 mission stood out because of its low cost of about $140 million. The United States spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion on its Apollo missions. The mission also holds great significance for future space exploration missions, including those to Mars.
On Saturday, contact was lost with the Moon lander Vikram just before it was due to touch down near the lunar south pole. A successful landing would have made India the fourth country — after the United States, Russia and China — to successfully land on the Moon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched the operation from the ISRO mission control and later asked the scientists to not “lose hope”.
But following several tense minutes as the expected landing time of about 1:55 am lapsed, ISRO Chairman K Sivan announced that communication had been lost with the lander.
ISRO had acknowledged before the landing that it was a complex manoeuvre, which Dr Sivan called “15 minutes of terror”.
“It is like suddenly somebody comes and gives you a newborn baby in your hands. Will you be able to hold without proper support? The baby will move this way, that way but we should hold it,” he had told NDTV.