“We need affordable space travel to inspire our youth to let them know that they can experience their dreams, can set significant goals and be in a position to lead all of us to future progress in exploration, discovery and fun.” Says Burt Rutan, an American aerospace engineer.
Right from Neil Armstrong’s stepping on the moon to the present day, each country and it’s every citizen has shown great curiosity towards our natural satellite –‘The Chandra’ . Our country stands proud of conducting many successful space explorations. Chandrayaan-2 (a moon craft) is the second lunar exploration mission developed by the Indian Space Research Organization to explore moon’s south pole after the success of Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. It consists of a lunar orbiter, the Vikram Lander and the Pragyan Lunar rover and each one of them has been developed in India. The total cost of the Mission amounts to nearly Rs. 978 Crores. The mission was launched to the Moon from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre on 22nd July 2019 by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III. The craft reached the moon’s orbit on 20th August 2019 and began orbital positioning manoeuvres for the landing of the Vikram Lander. Vikram and the rover were scheduled to land on the rear side of the moon in the south polar region at a latitude of about 700 south at approximately 1.50 a.m. on 7th September 2019 and conduct scientific experiments.
However, the lander deviated from its intended trajectory starting at 2.1 kilometres and lost communication. It was designed to function for one lunar day equivalent to 14 earth days. It could communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network, the Orbiter and rover. ISRO lost contact with Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram Lander two minutes before it was to reach the lunar surface in a temporary setback to India’s ambition of becoming the first country to explore the South Pole of the moon and its bold bid to become only the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon.
ISRO tried its level best to re-establish communication with the lander named after the late physicist and astronomer Vikram Sarabhai, declaring that the mission had already achieved 90-95 per cent of its objectives and would contribute to lunar science. Based on images from the orbiter, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said that the Vikram appears to have made a hard landing instead of a soft one. Soft landings which ISRO chairman had earlier described as “15 minutes of terror” are difficult because of the precise firing of the rocket engine is needed to lower the lander carrying the rover down on the moon which has no atmosphere. So far only 37% of soft landings have been successful in the world. In 2008, Chandrayaan-1 had confirmed the presence of water ice on the moon. The follow-up mission was planned to study the moon’s surface over a lunar day of two weeks. With a planned life of one year which may extend up to seven years, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue to circle the moon and send data on the unexplored south pole.
Honourable errors do not count as failures in science, but as seeds for progress in quintessential of correction. NASA has lauded Chandrayaan-2 saying India’s mission has “inspired” its agency which is keen on exploring the solar system jointly with ISRO. Various space agencies have described ISRO” s effects as “incredible”. Former NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger told that lessons learnt from India’s “bold attempt” will help the country in its follow up missions. India has tried something very very difficult and science is all about experiments and failures. Though India could not land its rover on the south pole, the landmark attempt highlighted its engineering prowess and growing ambitions to become a space superpower. The New York Times lauded India’s engineering prowess and decades of space development. The partial failure of the Chandrayaan-2 mission would just delay but not hinder country’s bid to join an elite club of nations that have landed in one piece on moon’s surface.
One of the major successes of this program has been its cost-effectiveness. Chandrayaan-2 costs $41 million, a small fraction of what the United States spent on its historic Apollo mission. According to NASA, only half of the lunar missions involving landing on the moon have been successful in the past six decades.
Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts. ISRO is raring for its next shot at the moon tying up with Japanese exploration Agency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the efforts of Scientists and asserted there will be a “new dawn and a better tomorrow.”
By Usneek Singh