In the last stage snag, the communication link between India’s moon lander Vikram and the moon orbiter got snapped as the former was descending towards the moon’s South Pole. Chandrayaan 2 has been an extremely ambitious endeavour with a long list of mission objectives to be realised

Predictable Science is an oxymoron. The present world is shaped more by the accidental discoveries and inventions in science than by the expected results. Be it the discovery of Penicillin or the invention of the non-shattering safety glass of the vehicles, we have scores of examples where a seeming setback at the beginning has turned out to be a path-breaking revelation of the hidden treasure.

Failures also allow working out of the alternative approaches which give much better results than the expected ones in the long run. The track record of Indian Space Research Organisation is a living testimony to this beauty that science beholds. The delayed start of the space programme and a tight budget have always pushed ISRO to work out brilliant frugal technologies ranging from the making of satellites to conducting extremely complex outer space missions like Chandrayaan 1 and Mangalyaan among many others.

Chandrayaan 2 has been an extremely ambitious endeavour with a long list of mission objectives to be realised. As the news of the setback to establish communication with the Vikram lander started pouring in the entire nation got overpowered in the gloom.

Soft landing undoubtedly was the most challenging part of the mission, which might have catapulted India into a rare league of the four nations that have ever managed to soft-land on the moon. What more, we would have become the first to have studied the lunar south, achieving a sense of exclusivity in the global space community. However the seeming underachievement prima-facie might hide the long lists of achievement that this mission has already registered.

As the acceptance sinks gradually we would surely have enough reasons to rejoice for this mission which is a commendable success on many fronts. To begin with, through this launch, ISRO has successfully initiated the operational service of its most powerful rocket GSLV MK-III. Having a decent carrying capacity of 4000 kg to the GTO, this can very soon be commercialised to start earning revenues.

Additionally the precise placement of the Chandrayaan 2 package in the orbit by the rocket saved sufficient fuel of the orbiter giving it a prolonged life around the moon. Although the orbiter was predicted to have an annual life span, it is already poised to exceed that by a big margin. It is a success similar to Mangalyaan which was destined to serve for only six months and has shown tremendous survival extinct to be ready to celebrate its fifth birthday.

A Tough Task

It is globally acknowledged that soft landing is an extremely complex process and around 48% of the missions attempting the touch down have failed globally

The Orbiter is where the major scientific payloads of the mission exist. Out of the 13 major instruments in the entire assembly seven reside on the orbiter. Its camera and spectrometers would offer many insights into the enigma of that holds with the origin and evolution of the moon. Additionally, it would generate a 3D terrain map and study the various minerals distribution including Magnesium, Iron, Calcium and Aluminium among others. 

Such missions generate the humongous volume of data in a short time the analysis of which keep yielding results for a long period of time. Even if the Vikram lander might not have performed as per the protocol it did go extremely close (2.1 km) to realising it, unlike the recent failure of the Israeli mission which missed it by a big margin. It is globally acknowledged that soft landing is an extremely complex process and around 48% of the missions attempting the touch down have failed globally. Even by a strict evaluation the Pragyan rover not having got a chance to walk out of the Vikram lander can certainly not be considered a failure.

On a general note there already have been many other takeaways from this mission. ISRO has actively facilitated the generous participation of public at large at all the stages of the mission. Be it the viewers gallery where thousands of public attended the launch for the first time or the multiple press conferences to allow an extensive media coverage, ISRO ensured this mission galvanises the nation to get interested in Space Science.

The unity of the diverse political spectrum in standing with ISRO at this stage of mixed emotions sends a very positive message for the nation which must support science unequivocally for accelerated growth. What more, strong messages of support from the global agencies which have been there and done that reaffirms the faith that we citizens need to maintain in ISRO, today and in future. I wish the Government of the day soon facilitates the fund support for the all-important soft landing technology to attempted again in the near future.