ISRO’s monumental effort notwithstanding, the Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 failed to make a smooth soft-landing on the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday, unable to bring down its speed to the required level. Contact from the lander to the ground stations was lost earlier in the day during its powered descent minutes before the planned touch-down.
In a televised speech to the nation today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked ISRO scientists not to get disheartened by the hurdles in the moon mission Chandrayaan-2 and asserted that there will be a “new dawn”.
While the significance of the Chandrayaan-2 cannot be understated, it’s important to recall at this juncture the contribution made by Chandrayaan-1 to India’s space mission.
What was Chandrayaan-1?
Launched 11 years ago on October 22, 2008, Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first Lunar mission that took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. It made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for at least 312 days until August 29, 2009. As per ISRO, the Chandrayaan-1 lift-off mass was around 1,380 kg.
The Chandrayaan-1 gave a major fillip to the Indian space program as it was the country’s indigenously developed technology to explore the Moon. It was launched aboard PSLV-C11 launch vehicle that successfully placed the spacecraft inside the lunar orbit on November 8, 2008.
A huge victory was achieved on November 14, 2008, when the MIP (Moon Impact Probe) was separated and it struck the lunar South Pole in a controlled manner. And with that, India became the fourth country in the world to hoist its national flag on lunar surface.
What happened to Chandrayaan-1?
After almost a year of struggling with technical issues and an eventual contact failure on August 29, 2009, the Indian Space Research Organisation officially declared the Chandrayaan-1 mission over.
The spacecraft operated for less than two years: 312 days as opposed to two years. However, the Chandrayaan-1 was successful in achieving at least 95 per cent of its objectives.
One of its biggest discovery was to find traces of water on the Moon, which was in itself a path-breaking achievement in international space science. This discovery gave the ISRO renewed interest in pursuing the Chandrayaan-2 for the mission to Moon. Besides this, the spacecraft also found water ice in the North polar region of the Moon as well as detected Magnesium, Aluminium and Silicon on its surface.