Chandrayaan 2 Timeline: It took ISRO 15 years to get a lander on the moon — here's how events unfolded

Part of the Chandrayaan 2 mission, the Vikram lander, is currently incommunicado with no proof that it is functional.


The Chandrayaan 2 mission has come a long way since the Indian Space Research Organisation first sought and won approval for the mission in 2008. Eleven years later, we're still learning from our mistakes even as we try and determine the status of the Vikram lander, after it almost pulled off a not-so-soft-landing near its intended landing site in the South Polar region. Even that crash is something of an achievement, though.

Starting with the latest updates from ISRO about the Chandrayaan 2 mission and its incommunicado Vikram lander, here's a list of all the major events culminating in the Chandrayaan 2 mission as we know it today, dating back to its precursor — the Chandrayaan 1 mission — in 2003.

Chandrayaan 2 Timeline: It took ISRO 15 years to get a lander on the moon — heres how events unfolded

GSLV MK-III. Image: ISRO

9 September 2019: Vikram lander found in one piece

(3.54 pm) T + 2d 14h: Vikram lander found intact after hard-landing. The lander is unbroken but lying tilted on the surface of the Moon after a hard landing very close to the scheduled touchdown site, an ISRO official said.

8 September 2019: 1 day after soft-landing attempt

(4.48 pm) T + 1d 15h: Support from nation, PM Modi boosted morale of ISRO’s scientists, K Sivan told PTI.

(4.48 pm) T + 1d 15h: Re-establishing contact with Vikram proving harder to do with time, ISRO says. 14-day mission to re-establish contact with lander underway. Information coming in from the orbiter would be crucial in this process, K Sivan tells PTI.

(2.18 pm) T + 1d 13h: Vikram lander had a hard-landing, K Sivan confirms. Health of the lander uncertain.

(1.40 pm) T + 1d 11h: Lander located on the lunar surface, condition uncertain.

7 September 2019: D-Day

(7 pm) T + 17h 40m: Official update: Second update mentions loss of communication with lander, but no specifics. Most objectives accomplished, mission will continue contributing to lunar science, ISRO said.

(8 am) T + 6h 40m: PM Modi lauds ISRO in a speech that indicates failure. Still no official press release.

(2.43 am) T + 50m: DD, ISRO's live coverage wraps up, media told to wait 15-20 minutes for an update.

(2.20 am) T + 27m: "Don't lose hope. Be courageous": PM Modi offers some encouraging words before leaving ISTRAC. (Starts at 01:21:45 hrs in the video below)

(2.15 am) T + 22m: Official confirmation: "This is Mission Control Centre. Vikram Lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, communication from lander to the ground stations was lost. Data is being analyzed," said K Sivan. (Starts at 01:16:34 hrs in the video below)

(02.10 am) T + 17m: Apparent loss of signal from, and communication with the lander.

The descent trajectory of the Vikram lander shows a deviation in the lander's velocity. Image: ISRO

The descent trajectory of the Vikram lander shows a deviation in the lander's velocity. Image: ISRO

(1.53 am) T = 0: Communications and imager data is ON. Velocity of the lander is 273 mps at this point.

(1.52 am) T - 1m:  Spacecraft path is visibly off expected track, mood in the command centre is gloomy.

(1.51 am) T - 2m: Fine-breaking phase complete, vertical descent of the lander begins.

ISRO officials exchanging notes after the Vikram lander fell silent. Image: ISRO

ISRO officials exchanging notes after the Vikram lander fell silent. Image: ISRO

(1.50 am) T - 3m: Altitude of the lander is less than ~20 km, but the velocity increases to 630 mps.

(1.48 am) T - 5m: Rough braking phase ends, fine-breaking leg of lander's descent begins.

(1.46 am) T - 7m:  With a velocity of ~450 mps, the lander continues to match its planned path.

(1.44 am) T - 9m: 6 minutes into the rough-braking part of the descent began, lander velocity is reduced from 3,000 m/s less than 950 m/s.

(1.38 am) T - 15m: Powered descent begins with the rough breaking phase. The lander is traveling at 6,000 kph at 30-km altitude.

(1.35 am) T - 18m: 3 minutes till descent is initiated, orbiter moves overhead the landing site for a final aerial inspection.

(1.26 am) T - 27m: PM Modi arrives at ISTRAC.

(1.12am) T - 42m: First live views of ISTRAC facility rolls in on ISRO stream.

A glimpse of the Chandrayaan 2 command centre at ISRO's ISTRAC satellite tracking facility in Bengaluru. Image: DD National/ISRO

A glimpse of the Chandrayaan 2 command centre at ISRO's ISTRAC satellite tracking facility in Bengaluru. Image: DD National/ISRO

(1.10 am) T - 40m: ISRO's YouTube stream goes live.

(12.50 am) T - 1h: Lander signal acquired after it exits its 'eclipse phase' around the moon's far side.

4 September 2019 

(3.42 am) T - 2d 22h: Vikram performs its final orbiter-lowering manoeuvre, enters a 35 × 101 km orbit around the moon.

3 September 2019

(8.50 am) T- 3d 17h: First de-orbiting manoeuvres of the Vikram lander place it in a 104 × 128 km orbit around the moon.

2 September 2019

(1:15 pm) T - 4d 12h: Vikram separates from Chandrayaan 2 orbiter, enters an independent 119 × 127 km orbit around the moon

1 September 2019

(6.21 pm) T - 5d 7h: Fifth and final lunar-bound manoeuvre places composite in a 114 × 128 km orbit around the moon

30 August 2019

(6.18 pm) T - 7d 7h: Fourth lunar-bound manoeuvre puts the composite in a 126 × 164 km orbit around the moon

28 August 2019

(9.04 am) T - 9d 17h: Third lunar-bound manoeuvre puts the composite in a 178 × 1,411 km orbit around the moon

24 August 2019: First lunar surface images

(1.10-1.30 am) T - 14d: First images from TMC-2 camera of the moon’s surface

Also read: Chandrayaan 2 returns stunning images of key craters near lunar north pole 

View of Earth from Chandrayaan 2's LI4 camera. Image: ISRO

View of Earth from Chandrayaan 2's LI4 camera. Image: ISRO

21 August 2019

(7 pm) T - 16d 7h: First images captured by Chandrayaan 2's LI4 camera from 2,650 km above the moon’s surface

(6.21 pm) T - 16d 6h: Second lunar orbit-lowering manoeuvre places the composite in a 121 × 4,303 km orbit around the moon

20 August 2019: C2 enters moon's orbit

(11 am) T - 17d 15h: Press Meet called by Chairman for mission details after successful lunar orbit insertion. 

(9.02 am) T - 17d 17h: Lunar orbiter insertion and first lunar orbit-lowering manoeuvre completed, placing composite in a 114 km x 18,072 km orbit around the moon

14 August 2019

(2.21 am) T - 23d 23h: Trans-lunar insertion of the Chandrayaan 2 composite

6 August 2019

(3.04 pm) T - 31d 11h: Fifth earth-bound manoeuvre complete, with new orbit of 276 x 1,42,975 km

3 August 2019

(~5.30 pm) T- 34d 8h: First images of Earth captured by lander Vikram's on-board cameras

2 August 2019

(3.27 pm) T - 35d 10h: Fourth earth-bound manoeuvre complete, with new orbit of 277 x 89,472 km

29 July 2019

(3.12 pm) T - 39d 11h: Third earth-bound manoeuvre complete, with new orbit of 276 x 71,792 km

26 July 2019

(1.08 am) T - 43d 1h: Second earth-bound manoeuvre complete, with new orbit of 251 x 54,829 km

Also read: Chandrayaan 2 planned orbit 'compressed' in latest manoeuver, ISRO reveals. What does it mean?

24 July 2019

(2.52 pm) T - 44d 11h: First earthbound orbit-raising complete, and a new orbit of 230 x 45,163 km around the moon attained. An optimised mission plan for upcoming in-orbit manoeuvres also released.

22 July 2019: Footage of launch released

(7 pm) T - 46d 7h: ISRO releases visuals of GSLVMkIII/Chandrayaan-2 launch and footage from onboard cameras

(5.30 pm) T - 46d 5h: PM, dignitaries congratulates ISRO for launching Chandrayaan 2 successfully.

(2.59 pm) T - 46d 11h: Chandrayaan 2 successfully separates from the GSLV-MkIII's fourth stage.

EMISAT drifting away from the PSLV fourth stage 750 kilometres above the ground. Image: ISRO

EMISAT drifting away from the PSLV fourth stage 750 kilometres above the ground. Image: ISRO

(2.43 pm) T - 46d 11h: GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully launches Chandrayaan 2, aiming to release in a Parking Orbit around the Earth.

21 July 2019

(6.43 pm) T - 47d 7h: 20-hr launch countdown begun at 6.43 pm, counting down to 2.43 pm on 22 July.

20 July 2019

(6 pm) T - 48d 8h: Launch rehearsal complete, the performance of the GSLV-MkIII-MI and Chandrayaan 2 payload were normal, ISRO confirms.

14 July 2019

T - 55d 3h: Countdown for GSLV MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 launch on 15 July at 2.51 am begins.

15 July 2019

T - 54d: ISRO scrubs the launch of Chandrayaan 2 less than an hour before liftoff after a technical snag in the GSLV-MkIII is picked up.

18 July 2019

T - 50d: ISRO reschedules the launch of Chandrayaan 2 to 22 July at 2.43 pm.

September 2009

Chandrayaan 1 data used by NASA to confirm the presence of water on the moon.

29 August 2009 

T - 10y 10d: ISRO mission controllers permanently lose communication link with Chandrayaan 1.

26 November 2008

T - 10y 9mo: The indigenous Terrain Mapping Camera on Chandrayaan 1 returns images of peaks and craters, which comes as a surprise to ISRO since the moon was thought to consist mostly of craters.

22 October 2008: Chandrayaan 1 launched

T - 10y 10mo: Chandrayaan 1 successfully launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota on a PSLV-XL launcher.

18 September 2008

T - 10y 11mo: The Union Cabinet, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's leadership, grants approval for a second moon mission, Chandrayaan 2.

November 2003

T - 15y 9mo: The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, grants approval to ISRO for its maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan 1.