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India loses contact with lunar spacecraft

  • September 06, 2019

The Indian space agency lost contact with its lunar probe on Saturday, just before it was due to land near the south pole of the moon.

It is currently unclear if the Chandrayaan-2 mission has failed. India launched the mission on July 22 in a bid to become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to successfully land on the moon.

Read more: Seven things driving India to the moon, Mars and beyond

“The Vikram lander descent was going as planned and normal performance was observed,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said in the mission control room.

“Subsequently the communication from lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed,” he said.

The ISRO said in a Tweet that normal performance was observed in the lander up to an altitude of 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) from the lunar surface. 

Read more: India’s space agency sets its sights on the sun

A ISRO radar in Bangalore scans the skies on the night of September 6

A ISRO radar in Bangalore scans the skies on the night of September 6

Modi lauds moon mission 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at ISRO’s Bangalore space center to watch the landing, said after Sivan’s announcement that what the scientists had already accomplished was “not a small achievement.”

“Ups and downs keep coming in life. Your hard work has taught us a lot and the entire country is proud of you,” said Modi. “If the communication starts again … hope for the best … Our journey will carry on.”

Read more: #Modi2Moon: What’s up with India’s space ambitions? 

The lander was due to touch down around 1:55 a.m. New Delhi time (20:25 UTC). Mission leader Sivan had said before the landing that it was very complex, calling it “15 minutes of terror.” 

India’s previous moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, involved an impact probe that intentionally “crashed” on the lunar surface in 2008. At the time, the ISRO said the intentional crash near the lunar south pole was a success, as it confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission, aimed at studying shadowed craters thought to contain water deposits, is estimated to have cost $140 million (€125 million). 

wmr/sms  (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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