India loses contact with Moon lander (Update)

This screen grab taken from a live webcast by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shows the Vikram lander before it wa
This screen grab taken from a live webcast by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shows the Vikram lander before it was supposed to land on the Moon - communication was subsequently lost

India's space programme suffered a huge setback Saturday after losing contact with an unmanned spacecraft moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing on the Moon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to comfort glum scientists and a stunned nation from mission control in Bangalore, saying India was still "proud" and clasping the visibly emotional space agency head in a lengthy hug.

Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar South Pole.

But in the early hours of Saturday local time, as Modi looked on and millions watched nationwide with bated breath, the Vikram lander—named after the father of India's space programme—went silent just 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

Its descent had been going "as planned and normal performance was observed", Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.

"Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost," he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. "The data is being analysed."

The Chandrayaan-2 ("Moon Vehicle 2") orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is however "healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit", the ISRO said.

India's Chandrayaan-2 mission, which blasted off in July 2019, cost just $140 million
India's Chandrayaan-2 mission, which blasted off in July 2019, cost just $140 million

Consoler-in-chief

Freshly re-elected Modi had hoped to bask in the glory of a successful mission, but on Saturday he deftly turned consoler-in-chief in a speech at mission control broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers.

"Sisters and brothers of India, resilience and tenacity are central to India's ethos. In our glorious history of thousands of years, we have faced moments that may have slowed us, but they have never crushed our spirit," he said.

"We have bounced back again," he added. "When it comes to our space programme, the best is yet to come."

Other Indians also took to Twitter to offer words of encouragement. "The important thing is we took off and had the Hope and Belief we can," said Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Indian media offered succour by quoting a NASA factsheet that said out of 109 lunar missions in the past six decades, 48 have failed.

Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India—the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million—a week after an initial launch was halted just before blast-off.

ISRO had acknowledged before the soft landing that it was a complex manoeuvre, which Sivan called "15 minutes of terror".

India aims for the Moon
Landing sites for probes and crewed missions on the Moon.

It was carrying rover Pragyan—"wisdom" in Sanskrit—which was due to emerge several hours after touchdown to scour the Moon's surface, including for water.

According to Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France's space agency CNES, this is vital to determining whether humans could spend extended periods on the Moon.

That would mean the Moon being used one day as a pitstop on the way to Mars—the next objective of governments and private spacefaring programmes such as Elon Musk's Space X.

'Space superpower'

In March Modi hailed India as a "space superpower" after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move prompting criticism for the amount of "space junk" created.

Asia's third-largest economy also hopes to tap into the commercial possibilities of space.

China in January became the first to land a rover on the far side of the Moon. In April, Israel's attempt failed at the last minute when its craft apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars.

India's Moon mission: Chandrayaan-2
India's Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon.

In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, and in 2017 India's space agency launched 104 satellites in a single mission.

The country's principal scientific adviser, K Vijay Raghavan, described Chandrayaan-2 as "very complex, and a significant technological leap from previous missions of ISRO" in a series of tweets on Saturday.

Raghavan said the orbiter will help India better understand the Moon's evolution, mapping minerals and water molecules "using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments".

"After a moment of despondency, it is back to work!! It is inspirational to see this characteristic of science in collective action. Kudos to ISRO," he added.

ISRO in a late Saturday statement said that the orbiter's "precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost 7 years instead of the planned one year."

"The Orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community," it added.


Explore further

India's Moon probe enters lunar orbit

© 2019 AFP

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Sep 07, 2019
INDIA in This Space Age

Despite this fact
Millions of Indians are on the bread line
Even millions more Indians are in dire poverty
Even millions more Indians are left homeless
In these flood and famines that lay waste to India
Despite
India being for is size and population, a poverty stricken country
Despite the world generously give India this Aid it so desperately deserves
Despite
Taking all these calamities into consideration

India, with its heritage and population living in this space age
Is potentially amongst this richest county on this planet

But money or lack of money does not make a moon Lander fail
Because
Going into space
Landing on comets and asteroids is common place now-a-days
After all these moon landing: There is no excuse for a moon Lander failing

p.s. when we finally set foot on mars, a failed landing is not an option!

Sep 07, 2019
Granted that I agree a country with a space programme doesn't need our Foreign Aid. However the rest I'm going to disagree with.

It is often said that war is what drives technological progress forwards apace, but the peaceable alternative is space exploration. I'd prefer the latter to the former.

Every country should attempt to push their collective boundaries forwards to inspire the next generation and to create technological prowess that could help them innovate and invest as a nation, even if, no, especially if, it seems unaffordable in the face of their abject poverty.

I say good on India for trying this, and immense kudos to them for the hard work of creating that cryo-engine and the rest at such a low cost. It's inspirational, even if they did not make the last 2km. They have much to be proud of and I look forward to the next attempt.

As for your last comment: space is hard. Many others have failed. As long as you learn from it, it is not failure.

Sep 07, 2019
granville58-Going into space Landing on comets and asteroids is common place now-a-days

It takes an incredible amount of stupidity and ignorance to believe that. It is NOT very common at all. Such missions are still novel and have been problematic.

Japan's initial effort was only a partial success. The sample return was mostly destroyed upon entry. The fact that they were able to save some of it does not mean it succeeded. Their second effort is ongoing.

Europe's tag along with a comet was likewise only a partial success. The lander failed to establish itself on the surface and was lost. While they collected immense amounts of info, to think they would call the mission a common, everyday successful mission is idiocy.

The USA has learned from their mistakes and is JUST BEGINNING to do the same types of missions. Previous missions were flybys and DAWN was a standard exploratory mission following a path first blazed by the pioneers.

Sep 07, 2019
My implication is
When all the hard work of refining these rockets
All these moon landings
It is simply like making a car
You follow the tried and tested successful design
That is presently running in billions on our roads

You simply copy exactly
Bolt for bolt
The successful design
And if you can make financial savings
Make sure these savings are not a result
Of shoddy workmanship
Cheap malfunctioning electronics
Cheap plastic material
for
These are these reasons as to why India only spent $140 million

Fore although parts can be made in India because of lower wages
When we live in this space age
As India lives in this space age
Parts and wages are the same this world over
No matter how poverty stricken your country is

p.s. when India steps up to this plate, when Indians have this western modern life style, a MacDonald will cost the same in India as France, but it won't change the price of moon landings, fore India did not spend western prices, as this is what rockets cost

Sep 07, 2019
wow, granny, i'm hear some racist fear in your comments

bootstrapping sciences invented in russia & rocket engineering invented in germany & electronics technology invented in britain

were the foundation of the american space program
in a nation still trying ro pull itself out of the Double War economy

& the rocketeers had to compete for funding with the nuclear energy & weapons programs

these projects were actually a successful example of trickle-down economy theory

funding for developing a rocket-engine paid the salary for a team of physicists & engineers
whose families bought homes, cars, shopped for consumer goods
oaid the salary of their auto-mechanic
who spent some of that on sending his son to college
to be educated by one of those early rocket experts
graduating, he went on to work for an early electronics firm
learned how to create & develop
novel ideas
before striking out to build a successful company with his own inventions

"A tree grows from a tiny seed"

Sep 07, 2019
ISRO tried reaching tech-support, but they were patched-thru to a call-center in Silicon Valley, and the techies there couldn't speak a word of Sanskrit...

Sep 07, 2019
Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India—the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million,

That is about how much Trump got the American taxpayers to pay for transport and security to his golf resorts. No doubt the Indians can manage a few more Chandrayaans in the near future.

Sep 07, 2019
Granted that I agree a country with a space programme doesn't need our Foreign Aid. However the rest I'm going to disagree with.

It is often said that war is what drives technological progress forwards apace, but the peaceable alternative is space exploration. I'd prefer the latter to the former.

Really?
Then you are gonna' love the fact that while cutting aid to India, the US is sending hundreds of millions to its neighbour, Pakistan. Which not only harbours terrorists but actively engage in terrorism against India.

Sep 07, 2019
If you ever cooperated with coders from India, this outcome shouldnt be a surprise for you :)

Sep 07, 2019
I applaud the people of India for trying. The only failure would be the failure to learn from the mistakes here. And when they figure out what went wrong, I look forward to learning from them.

Sep 07, 2019
Israel now India, we're littering the moon with garbage.

Sep 08, 2019
Israel now India, we're littering the moon with garbage.

With highly refined material for the Moon Rush era. The Gold Rush will be nothing in comparison.

Sep 08, 2019
SUNNY BRADFORD

In Bradford, rrwillsj

rrwillsj> wow, granny, i'm hear some racist fear in your comments
bootstrapping sciences invented in russia & rocket engineering invented in germany & electronics technology invented in britain

Rrwillsj, these Yorkshire corner, Arkwright stores
As portrayed in the BBC comedy
Are closer to this literal truth, rrwillsj
Fore you had to count your fingers
On leaving these Yorkshire stores
Never mind your change
And they closed in the middle of this large industrial town of Bradford, on Wednesday afternoon's
Not so these Indian and Pakistanis stores
These stayed open all hours
And because they celebrated another god
On these dreary Yorkshire Christmas days
These Indian and Pakistani stores were open
And, rrwillsj
You left these foreign stores on Christmas day
With more money in your sky rocket
With all your fingers intact

So Rrwillsj, What Are These Racist Comments You Fear!

Sep 08, 2019
After 12 failed attempts, US had their first successful lunar mission in the 13th attempt. Failure is not an option but a necessity for success. Einstein had said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

First look at problems in America despite being a rich country, e.g. Look at US jails full of black people, homeless people in every downtown, expanding ghettos, world number 1 country in gun violence.

Being affluent doesn't seem to solve these American problems, does it? If India is doing this much in space despite its own problems, the effort must be applauded.

Sep 09, 2019
First look at problems in India where a certain class of Indians are considered to be the lowest-of-the-low.

untouchable | ˌənˈtəCHəb(ə)l |
adjective
2 of or belonging to the lowest-caste Hindu group or the people outside the caste system.
noun
a member of the lowest-caste Hindu group or a person outside the caste system. Contact with untouchables is traditionally held to defile members of higher castes.

A member of the Untouchable caste of India was murdered by a man who was paid to do the killing by the father of the young woman who married the Untouchable. The couple had a child after two years being married. But the father of the young woman was so enraged that she had married an Untouchable that he paid to have the young man murdered as a matter of pride and respect for his family. This happened fairly recently and is an ongoing problem amongst Indians of different castes. Bigotry is alive and well in India.

Sep 09, 2019
SEU, ask a black man in Georgia, whether the definition of untouchable applies to him. The pot is calling the kettle black?

Sep 09, 2019
India's efforts are nice and all, we can't blame them for failing their mission, and stuff....
But comparing them to the pioneers of space exploitation and exploration? Let's not get carried away, their attempt is coming after decades of knowledge about space, launchers and so on.
We can still be glad they spent less money than most country in that mission. And even so, money spent on space related things is money not wasted on "more useless" stuff.
Because, well....no rich country will EVER spend their money well anyway, sooo yay space.

Sep 09, 2019
A member of the Untouchable caste of India was murdered by a man who was paid to do the killing by the father of the young woman who married the Untouchable.


Yes, and both the killer and father are going to jail. Some redneck in the Louisiana town where our niece lives killed his adult daughter's black boyfriend, and some other redneck killed his son's boyfriend. This is not unique to India.

Sep 11, 2019
@Cusco
This sort of thing happens all over the world. But the topic is about India and what is going on IN INDIA, not in Georgia. Were there any Untouchables there in Georgia that you know about?

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