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Reducing Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter's orbit to locate Vikram Lander can be risky: Experts

Space experts on Monday said that ISRO should not try to reduce the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter in order to pick up any weak signals or to take a closer look at Vikram Lander that had lost contact with ISRO on Saturday because the reduction in orbit can prove dangerous for the Orbiter itself.

Reducing Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter's orbit to locate Vikram Lander can be risky: Experts
Photo courtesy: ISRO
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CHENNAI: Space experts on Monday said that ISRO should not try to reduce the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter in order to pick up any weak signals or to take a closer look at Vikram Lander that had lost contact with ISRO on Saturday because the reduction in orbit can prove dangerous for the Orbiter itself.

IANS quoted sources as saying that Bengaluru-based Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to reduce the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter from 100 km to 50 km above the lunar surface. "Reducing the orbit of the Orbiter is a dangerous idea. What is ISRO going to gain by this move is not known. Even if the Orbiter is able to pick up weak signals, in all probability, it will not be able to revive Vikram. At or above 100 km altitude, the Orbiter is safe. But if it is brought down to 50 km, then it has to be maintained there which requires firing of the on-board engines. If that is not done, the Orbiter will slowly go down," a former ISRO official told IANS.

He added that the firing of on-board engines of Orbiter will reduce its life. "To bring down the Orbiter, ISRO has to fire its motors. Then to maintain that at 50 km height, fuel has to be expended. If ISRO decides to take it up to 100 km altitude, then further fuel has to be expended," the expert remarked. The former ISRO official said that Orbiter is working very well and ISRO should not do anything to put its performance at risk.

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Earlier on Monday, sources at ISRO told Zee Media that Vikram Lander, which had lost contact with the ISRO 2.1 km above the Moon’s surface, was not damaged despite a hard landing. Sources added the lander is intact as a “single piece” and not broken into pieces. The sources, however, added that the Vikram Lander was in a tilted position on the Moon’s surface. It did not land in the position, which was planned by the space agency.

ISRO is still to find out the exact condition of the Vikram Lander and experts maintain that the condition of Vikram Lander cannot be accurately ascertained unless the scientists at ISRO manage to establish communication with it. As of now, ISRO has 12 more days to establish communication, as the battery of the Vikram Lander has an expected life of 14 days. The lander is carrying the Pragyan Rover.

Chandrayaan-2 was India’s first attempt at landing a spacecraft on the moon. Before India, only the USA, Russia and China have managed to place a spacecraft on Moon so far. Chandrayaan-2 was scheduled to land at the south polar region of the moon, a place where no one else has ever gone before.  The mission took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on July 22. After revolving around the earth's orbit for nearly 23 days, Chandrayaan-2 began its journey to the moon on August 14.