India loses its moon lander at mission’s climax

Indian officials
Kailasavadivoo Sivan. the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, briefs Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the status of the Chandrayaan 2 mission. (ISRO via YouTube)

India’s Mission Control lost contact with the lander for its Chandrayaan 2 mission today, just as it was about to make a touchdown near the moon’s south pole.

Chandrayaan 2’s Vikram lander descended to a highland plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of 70.9 degrees south. But contact was lost in the final moments of the descent.

During the minutes that followed, worried-looking mission managers huddled with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at Satish Dhawan Space Center for the landing. Then Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, took the microphone at Mission Control.

“Vikram lander’s descent was as planned, and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 kilometers,” he said. “Subsequently, the communication from the lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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