ISRO chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan announcing loss of signal with Vikram lander.
Credit: ISRO


India’s mission control lost communications with its Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander at roughly 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) from its lunar touchdown.

The true fate of the Vikram lander carrying the Pragyan rover is being reviewed by engineers at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi comforts ISRO leader.
Credit: ISRO

Under investigation

“The communications from the lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed,” said ISRO chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at mission control in the southern city of Bangalore.

What occurred during the Vikram lander’s powered descent remains under investigation.

Credit: ISRO

Orbiter capabilities

Meanwhile, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is circling the Moon, with an expected mission life of one year. It is toting an array of scientific instruments that promises to reveal the Moon from on-high, given a 100 x 100 kilometer lunar polar orbit.

The orbiter instruments are:

— Terrain Mapping Camera 2 (TMC 2)

— Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS)

— Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM)

— Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC)

— Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS)

— Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (DFSAR)

India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter is loaded with scientific gear.
Credit: ISRO

On-high investigations

The orbiter’s TMC 2 is a miniature version of the Terrain Mapping Camera used onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission. Its primary objective is mapping the lunar surface to provide clues about the Moon’s evolution and help prepare 3D maps of the lunar surface.

Meanwhile, the OHRC is built to provide high-resolution images of the Vikram lander’s touchdown site, powerful enough to detect any craters or boulders in the landing area. The images it captures, taken from two different look angles, will serve several purposes. For one, they can be used to generate DEMs (Digital Elevation Models) of the landing site.

The dual frequency (L and S) SAR will provide enhanced capabilities to provide high-resolution lunar mapping in the polar regions; quantitative estimation of water-ice in the polar regions; and help estimate regolith thickness and its distribution.

If the ISRO Chandrayaan-2 lander/rover indeed cratered, the mission’s orbiter is in position and in good health to generate significant lunar science.

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