Chandrayaan 2 is still the toast of the country. Not only India, even other big powers of the world were eagerly awaiting the final landing of Vikram the lander. And the historic moment of Chandrayaan 2 didn’t seem too far away. Since its successful take off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on July 23, 2019 to covering a distance of over 3,84,000 km on a decided path, Chandrayaan 2 was on the verge of creating history by landing on the south pole of the Moon.
Expectant eyes turn teary
The wait was expected to end, the moment of truth was about to unearth, with the soft landing of Chandrayaan 2 on the lunar surface between 1:30am to 2:30am on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also camping in ISRO mission control complex in Bengaluru and boosting the morale of the scientists to witness this historic moment. The entire nation was anxiously looking for a positive and heart warming result. The country was hoping for a new dawn.
Vikram failure breaks heart
But success and failure are a part and parcel of life. The negative aspect was also hovering in the mind of every Indian. Unfortunately, the heartbreaking news was announced that the fate of Vikram lander is unknown. Barely 2 km from the Moon’s surface, the lander had lost contact with ISRO ground control. With the loss of Vikram, Pragyan the rover on board the lander is also lost.
Everything is not lost
All is not lost, despite the let-down; the Chandrayaan 2 mission is not totally unsuccessful. Although it failed to achieve the perfect target, but to some extent the Chandrayaan 2 success story will continue. Its orbiter remains in operation. It will study the Moon from afar. The work of the orbiter would be to take photographs of the Moon and transmit it to the ISRO over the next year. The orbiter will be carrying out its function and taking the photographs of the lander to get its position.
India was looking to become the first country to reach closest to the Moon’s South Pole. Had the landing been successful, India would have become the fourth nation after the United States, Russia and China to achieve this feat. In spite of this hiccup, credit should be given to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists for their commendable, and round the clock efforts. They tried their best but fate was not with them. Howver, we must remember the old saying ‘Failures are the pillars of success’. Our space scientists have surely got their foot in the door, so to say, and sooner or later success is bound to follow.
Modi consoles & hugs ISRO chief
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had been stationed in Bengaluru since Friday night showed exemplary courage and composure this morning. He personally consoled the ISRO chief K Sivan when the disappointing news trickled in. PM Modi gave a warm hug to K Sivan and, patting him on the back, said, “Our determination to touch the Moon has become even stronger and the best is yet to come.”
PM assures to bounce back
Consoling the scientists to keep up and go forward, PM Modi said, “…resilience and tenacity are central to India’s ethos”. “In our glorious history, we have faced moments that may have slowed us but they have never crushed our spirit. We have bounced back again and gone on to do spectacular things. This is why our civilisation stands tall,” he said.
On the right path till the last
Till the fateful moment, the 47-day journey of Chandrayaan 2 was mostly smooth and without any glitches, including the detachment of Vikram and Pragyan from the main orbiter. Overall, 109 times efforts have been made for landing on the Moon in the last 6 decades, as per NASA. Of these 109 missions, 48 have been unsuccessful. But the fact is that lunar exploration started once again in the 1990s following a two-decade interval.
This year in April, Israel’s attempt of a soft-landing on the lunar surface also ended in failure. Its Beresheet spacecraft failed to slow down adequately and later crash-landed on the moon. But it should be noted that Beresheet is the only failure since the resumption of lunar expeditions in the 1990s.
Made headlines for a modest budget
The Chandrayaan 2 mission specially made the headlines because, at US$140 million, its budget was so modest. In contrast, the budget of recent Hollywood blockbuster Avengers: The Endgame was more than double at an estimated US$356 million. The ISRO scientists must be lauded for developing the extraordinary processes to achieve more by spending less in fulfilling their mission. In its Mangalyaan mission in 2014, only US$74 million was spent, roughly a tenth of the budget for the American Maven orbiter.