India’s Moon Mission Suffers Setback As Contact With Spacecraft Lost Prior To Landing
India’s $140 million moon mission has suffered a setback as the country’s space agency lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft that was to land on the moon.
According to reports in foreign media, contact with the moon lander Vikram, named after the father of India’s space programme, was lost just 2.1 kilometres above the lunar surface.
Pictures viral on social media showed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi comforting dejected scientists at the lunar programme’s command centre in Bangalore.
The mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (IRSO) had been launched in July. It had however been postponed prior to its launch due to technical difficulties.
The mission, named Chandrayaan-2, took off on July 22 and was carrying an orbiter, lander and rover. India had hoped to become the fourth country to make a successful moon landing, and the first on the South Pole of the moon.
However, in the early hours of Saturday in what was a sheer disappointment, Vikram went silent just as it was about to land on the lunar surface.
ISRO acknowledged that the landing was a complicated manoeuvre, which the chairman of the organisation called ’15 minutes of terror’.
According to IRSO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the descent of the spacecraft was going as planned and normal performance was observed.
However, communication from the spacecraft to the ground station was lost. Data from Vikram is currently under analysis.
The IRSO has said that the orbiter Chandrayaan-2 however, was ‘healthy and functioning’ and would circle and study the moon for a year.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister took to consoling the members of the space programme and his country people. In a speech broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers, Modi emphasised on the resilience and tenacity of India’s ethos, and how in the country’s history, India had faced moments that had slowed the country, but never crushed its spirits.