India’s attempt to safely land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon likely ended in failure,
The Indian Space Research Organization has launched Chandrayaan-2 on July 22; it reached the moon’s orbit on August 20. It spent the last two weeks lowering its orbit in stepwise descents, before a lander (with a rover onboard) separated from the orbiter on Monday.
The lander, named Vikram after the famous Indian astronomer and ISRO founder Vikram Sarabhai, began its descent to the moon on the morning of September 1, local time. Moments before it was expected to land on the surface today, communications were lost which is a sign that the lander had very likely crashed.
According to final telemetry readings during ISRO’s live-stream, Vikram’s final vertical velocity seems to have been around 58 meters per second from 330 meters above the surface––quite fast for a lunar landing. ISRO chief K. Sivan later said the lander performed as expected until about 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) in altitude. Still, its fate remains unclear.
The lander was attempting to descend to a point on the surface 375 miles (603 km) from the moon’s south pole, which would’ve made it the southernmost landing in lunar mission history.
ISRO is trying to analyze the data and confirm the lander’s fate, but the news is quite discouraging so far. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, however, will continue to carry out an array of studies from an altitude of about 62 miles above the lunar surface for at least a year.
(News source Indian News Channel live transmission)