Chandrayaan 2: Here’s how NASA is helping ISRO in reviving Vikram Lander

Ribhu Mishra
Chandrayaan 2, ISRO , NASA,

ISRO Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander Update: The American space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has confirmed that it will be assisting ISRO in its quest to connect with the Vikram Lander. The Indian Space Agency met with a glitch in the early hours of September 7 and lost contact with the Lander module Chandrayaan 2, minutes before its scheduled soft landing on Lunar surface. NASA, apart from the radio signal, will also be sharing pictures of the region of the Moon where the Vikram lander hard-landed. NASA has said that it would share before and after images of the region of the Moon where the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan 2 supposedly made a hard-landing in the wee hours of September 7.

According to a report published in the NYT, the US space agency has stated that it will 'share any before and after flyover imagery of the region around the targeted landing site of ISRO's Chandrayaan-2's Vikram Lander. NASA will be supporting the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in their analysis. The US space agency is also trying to re-establish communication with the Vikram lander. Notable the lander has not responded or transmitted any signal since September 7.

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Also, the Deep Space Network (DSN) of NASA is sending radio signals in the hope of re-establishing contact with Vikram Lander. Notably, ISRO has also been using the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, Bengaluru, since September 7 to communicate with the lander. An astronomer, Scott Tilley in her tweet said, "Chandrayaan-2 and Queqiao (Chinese-spacecraft) will briefly embrace before the Orbiter of Chandrayaan-2 slips behind the Moon yet again. Meanwhile, the DSN24 continues to emit its beacon in hope that Vikram Lander will respond.” Scott Tilley is an amateur, yet well-known astronomer as she successfully located the missing American weather satellite named 'IMAGE' in 2018.

Among the payloads onboard the Vikram lander which housed the Pragyan Rover inside was a NASA passive experiment payload too. The NASA payload called Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) was set to reflect laser beams from Earth. This would have helped the agencies in analysing the round-trip time of the laser which in turn would have helped to calibrate location systems for navigation of spacecraft(s). Notably, The Israeli lunar mission, Beresheet which crashed onto the surface of the Moon in April this year also had this equipment onboard.

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According to Dr Nirupam Roy, assistant professor of physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, “The radio signals that are being sent in a hope of re-establishing some form of communication with the Vikram lander. If the space agencies are successful in established communication, scientists might at least be able to tell what systems on the lander are still working and also assess what might have gone wrong during the last moments. I am unsure about the fact that they will be able to send any commands or not.

The American Space Agency, NASA has assured that apart from the radio signals, they will also be sharing the images from its own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will fly over Vikram's landing site on September 17.

Nirupama Roya also stated, “ISRO has already located the lander using the images taken by the orbiter, but in order to establish communication, the lander has to be in a working condition and has to be functioning properly in two ways. Firstly, the solar panel for power and secondly, the antennae for communication. As informed and from what I know, the battery backup of the Vikram lander can at best last only for 14 Earth days. If that is the case then all hope of establishing communication will end as the lunar night begins over the south polar region."

The time to re-establish communication with the Vikram Lander is limited as it has been designed to work only for 14 days. ISRO scientists will have to locate the lander before the lunar night (equal to 14 Earth days), which begins on September 21. The Vikram lander runs on solar power and would go on sleep mode if the region enters into the Lunar night and then it will be quite impossible to get the lander working.