September 7, 1:55 AM
The silence was unsettling as it followed cheers and clapping in the buzzing media enclosure at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) early on September 7.
It was clear that all was not well and some of us journalists turned to the scientists who were watching the descent of lander Vikram with us in the media enclosure.
We had questions on what the OFF signal on one part of the screen meant, and what that blip in the descent trajectory indicated. They themselves were discussing with each other and said they were still waiting to hear from the control room.
When we asked whether it was a bad sign, they just smiled and said they were still hopeful.
Chandrayaan 2 had covered over 3.8 lakh kilometres since its launch on the GSLV Mark 3 on July 22. It achieved lunar orbit insertion on August 19.
At the time of the powered descent, the first such attempt at
lunar landing by ISRO, it successfully completed three phases to reach just within the grasp of the Moon. 2.1 kilometres and the communication went off.
I had felt involved with the Chandrayaan 2 mission merely by attending two press conferences at ISRO over the last few months.
In the second conference on August 20, I felt I was back in a fun classroom when ISRO chairman K Sivan pulled out a model of Chandrayaan 2 and explained the entire process of the lander separation, the soft landing and the rover rollout with childlike enthusiasm.
He had lived it in his head. They all had. Maybe since the time many of them were in school and decided to be scientists.
There were many scientists in the media room at the time of the descent. Many of them had worked on some of the payloads that the spacecraft had carried for scientific research, which was the main objective of the mission.
They were all there to witness the culmination of their labour, which was always to further science.
The media was told that ISRO was still analysing data and that the press conference scheduled for 8: 00 am on September 7 had been cancelled.
We dispersed, sleepy, tired but still animatedly discussing what could have gone wrong, in the confines of our very limited understanding.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who we thought had cancelled his speech on the mission, which was scheduled at 6:00 am, addressed the scientists at 8:00 am and gave an inspiring speech to lift the morale.
The hug between the
PM and the ISRO chief that is now a viral video for its raw emotions did moisten many eyes.
And then the PM left. We are back to our routines.
At ISRO, where many of the scientists lived and breathed Chandrayaan for the past several years, the silence may still hover for some time.But here's looking at cheering for