The ISRO chairman blamed faulty execution in the last stage of the operation for the loss of communication.
- This was K Sivan’s first statement since the lander went incommunicado
- He blamed a glitch in the last stage for the loss of contact with Vikram
- PM Modi had earlier told Dr Sivan to not lose hope, and be courageous.
Scientists have not given up hope on establishing contact with the Vikram lander yet, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Sivan said today, adding that efforts to contact it will continue for the next 14 days. His public statement to national broadcaster Doordarshan was his first since the lander fell silent in the early hours of Saturday, dashing the hopes of millions across the country.
Dr Sivan blamed faulty execution in the last stage of the operation — when the Vikram lander was 2.1 km above the lunar surface — for the loss of communication. “The last part of the operation was not executed in the right manner. It was in that phase that we lost link with the lander, and could not establish contact subsequently,” he told Doordarshan.
The scientist had last spoken minutes after ISRO lost contact with the lander around 1:55 am, and his words left millions across the country dejected. “Vikram lander’s descent went as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost. The data is being analysed,” he said around 2:16 am to a room full of crestfallen scientists at the ISRO centre in Bengaluru.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had then patted him on the back in a comforting gesture.
During today’s interaction with Doordarshan, Dr Sivan described PM Modi as a “source of inspiration and support”. “His speech gave us motivation. In his speech, the special phrase that I noted was: One should should not aim for results with science but for experiments, for experiments will lead to results,” he said.
Things seemed to be going just fine until the final stage of the operation, described by ISRO as “15 minutes of terror”, during which the lander was supposed to set itself down on the Moon’s south pole at 1:55 am. Applause greeted the successful completion of each stage of its descent, and the graph showed it going down the normal trajectory. In its last tweet posted at 1:49 am, ISRO said: “Rough breaking of #VikramLander ends and fine braking phase starts. #Chandrayaan2 #ISRO.”
The tension in the room was palpable.
Just then, a group of scientists led by Dr Sivan walked over to PM Modi, who nodded in grave acknowledgment before making his way down the stairs. The scientists appeared to be comforting Dr Sivan.
Before PM Modi left, he patted the ISRO chief on his back and gave the scientists a pep-talk. “Don’t lose hope. Be courageous. There are ups and downs in life. What you all have done is no small thing. You have done a great service to the country, science and mankind. I am with you. I wish you all the best.”
ISRO had decided to land Vikram on the south pole of the moon in an effort to detect water in the permanently shadowed areas around it. The lunar region is also believed to have craters — or cold traps — that could contain a fossil record of the early solar system.