Embarrassed ISRO Keeping Vikram Failure Report Secret

This before and after image ratio highlights changes to the surface; the impact point is near center of the image and stands out due the dark rays and bright outer halo. Note the dark streak and debris about 100 meters to the SSE of the impact point. Diagonal straight lines are uncorrected background artifacts. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

The News Minute reports the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to keep the failure report for its Vikram lunar lander under wraps.

According to the TOI report, the [Right to Information (RTI)] query was filed by Sathish GN, a resident of Bengaluru. Sathish had sought the details of the FAC report on the hard landing of Vikram lander. However, the RTI response states that this information cannot be divulged under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. This section lists exemption of disclosure of information that would “prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.”

A veteran scientist and former ISRO Chief said that ISRO’s decision may not be the best. “I don’t think the decision taken by ISRO is correct. ISRO has been doing a transparent job and has been a transparent organisation. Just by showing where and how it landed will not affect national security. They have given a lame excuse, that is all,” Dr G Madhavan Nair said. 

The Vikram lander crashed into the lunar surface on Sept. 7, 2019, putting an end to India’s much hyped first attempt to land on the moon. Vikram was part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, whose orbiter continues to return results to this day.

The News Minute said ISRO’s Failure Analysis Committee (FAC) traditionally issues reports on the space agency’s failed missions.

The news website said the only public explanation of the failure came in a written reply by the Prime Minister’s Office to a question from Parliament.

During the second phase of descent, Vikram applied excessive braking force and veered off its planned landing trajectory, the response said.

“Due to this deviation, the initial conditions at the start of the fine braking phase were beyond the designed parameters. As a result, Vikram hard-landed within 500 metres of the designated landing site,” the government said.

Chennai-based engineer Shanmuga Subramanian discovered remains of Vikram about 750 meters from the planned landing area after scouring images returned by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The discovery was later confirmed by the U.S. space agency.