India's latest Moon-shot fails
What just happened? India’s Isro space agency launched Chandrayaan-2 in July, their second vehicle destined to land on the Moon. The journey went without a hitch until the last moment, when Isro dramatically lost contact with the probe during its descent to the lunar surface.
India was all set to become the fourth nation to make a successful soft-landing on the Moon. Their latest probe, Chandrayaan-2 (‘Moon vehicle 2’), had journeyed for thousands of miles and safely made it to our natural satellite. The descent began and all was going according to plan until an unknown error meant India’s space agency Isro lost contact with the probe a mere 1.3 miles above the lunar surface.
The landing phase is always the most tricky part of an already incredibly difficult operation. So much so that it is often dubbed the “15 minutes of terror.” In this case the terror turned to disappointment, as contact was lost seconds before landing was meant to take place.
Chairman of Isro, Kailasavadivoo Sivan, announced that the descent had been normal until communication was lost, and that the “mission’s data would be analysed” to ascertain what exactly went wrong. The fate of the craft is unknown, but it’s likely to be in bits, strewn across the Moon’s surface.
India is proud of our scientists! They’ve given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!
Chairman @isro gave updates on Chandrayaan-2. We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 6, 2019
Chandrayaan-2, which launched in July, comprised a landing module and a rover. The lander, named Vikram after Isro’s founder, would have deployed the rover, nicknamed Pragyan, which means ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit. Pragyan was host to numerous sensors and instruments designed to search for water, check the composition of lunar minerals, and measure ‘moonquakes’.
This has been Isro’s most advanced and challenging project to date. Even more impressively, it was done on a relatively tiny budget of $150 million. While the mission was ultimately unsuccessful, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that he is proud that Isro came so close to achieving their historic goal.