Indian Space Research Organisation’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.
Scientists led by Sivan went into a huddle and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was keenly tracking the progress was briefed on the development and a sombre mood enveloped the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, which quickly led to dejection; all in a span of about half an hour after the process began.
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, his voice choking.
“The data is being analysed”, he added at the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network as disappointment was writ large on the faces of ISRO scientists.