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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
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Chandrayaan-2: Why experimentation is important, and why the journey matters, too

The loss of signal sounds very innocuous but usually belies a much deeper problem. Why would a perfectly healthy spacecraft suddenly stop communicating?

chandrayaan-2 moon landing mission by ISRO Chandrayaan-2 perhaps reminded us how insignificant humans are in the Universe, even with our most developed spacecraft.

As we drive away from an important moment in our lives back towards our daily grind, it is perhaps time to look into the rear view mirror and reflect on what Chandrayaan-2 made us realise: about us, about the broader Universe, and about India.

Forty-eight hours have passed since the signal from the lander was lost. The loss of signal sounds very innocuous but usually belies a much deeper problem. Why would a perfectly healthy spacecraft suddenly stop communicating? And, if contact was really broken because of a non-dire reason, it would have been re-established in minutes, or at most hours.

One dire prognosis is that the vehicle was in danger, most likely overheated, and that the communication system was damaged. ISRO seems to have located the lander. Whatever the underlying issue was, and whatever the final status of the lander is, it is important to accord the ISRO team the necessary time to look through the available data and reconstruct what happened in the final minutes. Without the study of the data sent out by the lander, it is not possible to hypothesize what happened: the engineering possibilities are far too many.

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