Bengaluru: Contact with the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram was likely lost when it was far closer to the lunar surface than what has been assumed. Ever since the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) lost contact with the Vikram lander, the popular perception has been that the probe was 2.1 km above the lunar surface when it went silent.
However, in reality, Vikram was likely as close as 400 m to the Moon surface.
The reason for the confusion could be put down to a possible misinterpretation of the statement released by the Indian Space Research Organisation on it losing contact with the Vikram lander. And, the clarity comes from an image of a graph that was following Vikram’s decent on to the Moon.
First, let’s recap what happened on Saturday when the Chandrayaan-2 lander began its descent on to the Moon:
Vikram began its descent shortly before 1:40 am on Saturday. The probe went through a series of manoeuvres to slow down, lower its altitude and get in position to land near the south pole of the Moon.
At around 1:50 am, silence began gripping the Isro command centre in Bengaluru and worry began creeping up on the faces of the scientists there, suggesting that something had gone wrong. No updates came in from Isro for the next 20 minutes.
At 2:18 am, Isro chief K Sivan took to a mike at the control centre and said, “Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communications from the lander to the ground centre was lost. The data is being analysed [sic].”