Vikram Lander: Why imaging by NASA’s LRO would be of little help
New Delhi, Sep 17: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will fly past the lunar South Pole today and is expected to get some details about Chandrayaan-2's Vikram Lander.
While some data would be made available, the chances of the LRO capturing anything substantial appears to be low. The camera onboard the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has a better resolution of 32 cm when compared to the 50 cm of the LRO. The LRO however with 200 terabytes of data has mapped the moon extensively during its mission life so far.
Though the Chandrayaan-2 camera is better, ISRO will not be able to generate data about the soft landing mishap. ISRO only has images of place where the lander was supposed to land. The LRO has older data and wider coverage. The lander may have gone up and down on the lunar surface with thrusters on. It may have veered off around by 50 km and hence the LRO imaging would be of some help.
Norah Petro, LRO's project scientist told spaceflightnow.com that NASA will share any before and after flyover imagery of the area around the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander landing site to support analysis by the ISRO.
This information would be crucial as the window of opportunity to gain contact with the lander closes in a few days from now. Lander Vikram, with rover Pragyan, housed inside it, lost communication with ground-station early on September 7 during its final descent, just 2.1 km above the lunar surface, minutes before the planned touch-down on the Moon.
Efforts to re-establish the link has been going on since then. On September 8, ISRO said the lander was spotted on the lunar surface by camera on-board of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter. Vikram had a hard-landing.
The lander, designed to execute a soft-landing on the lunar surface, and rover have a mission life of one Lunar day, which equivalent to 14 earth days -- that means ISRO now has just over a few days to spring Vikram back to life.
"Progressively, you can imagine that it becomes that much more difficult, with each passing hour, the available power on the battery gets drained out, and there won't be anything left for it to power and operate", an ISRO official told PTI.
"With every passing minute, the situation becomes worse only...less and less probable (to establish contact with Vikram", he said.
"It looks more and more remote only", the official said when asked if there was a slender chance of re-establishing the link.
A team at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network here has been desperately trying to restore the link with the lander.
"With the right orientation, it can still generate power and recharge batteries with solar panels. But it looks less and less probable, progressively," the official said.