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Chandrayaan 2 loses contact with the lander in the final seconds of the descent to Moon's surface

Chandrayaan 2 loses contact with the lander in the final seconds of the descent to Moon's surface

  • Chandrayaan 2's lander, Vikram, tried to touch down on the lunar surface at 1:38am on 7 September 2019.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is yet to make an official announcement but has disclosed that is no loner able to communicate with the lander.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the scientists to not lose hope.
India was almost the first nation to land near Moon’s South Pole. But, it seems like the lander failed to slow down enough in the final seconds of the landing, leaving the 130,000 people watching the live webcast disappointed.

"Vikram lander was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communication was lost. The data is being analysed," stated Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan.

Many tense minutes after the scheduled landing time, an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) executive was heard briefing Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the ISRO headquarters “was receiving signals only from the landing station.”

Only one in three attempts of soft landing on the Moon have been successful, so the odds were not in Chandrayaan 2’s favour. Earlier this year, Israel’s attempt to soft land on the Moon went horribly wrong when it crashed into the surface instead.

"There are ups and downs in life. This is still not a small achievement and the country is proud of you. As I have been told, if the communication begins again, we will still gain a lot. Let's hope for the best. You have made a great service to the country, to science and to mankind. Our journey will continue and you have my full support," Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the scientists.

Chandrayaan 2's lander, Vikram, had to slow down to near zero to successfully soft land on the Moon's surface. The speed went down from 1.6 km per second at the start of the vertical descent to 48.59 metres per sec when the signal was lost.

However, Modi also added that communications could start up yet again. “Hope for the best,” he said.

The entire descent had four phases:

Vikram's had to be at the exact right exact and approach the Moon at a precise speed to make sure that it didn't tip over as it touched down on the Moon.

Phase 1: Rough breaking phase — from 30 kilometers to 7.4 kilometers — 10 minutes — 1830 m to second 140 meters per second

Phase 2: Altitude and absolute navigation phase — 7.4 kilometers to 5 kilometers.

Phase 3: Fine breaking phase — 5 kilometers to 400 meters

Phase 4: Terminal descent — 400 meters to 100 to 60 to 10 to touchdown.

Not a complete failure

ISRO's failing to soft land on the Moon might fall short of its expectations but that doesn't mean that the Chandrayaan 2 mission is a failure. Chandrayaan 2's orbiter is still circling the Moon. It also has more payloads on board than the lander and rover combined.

India might not be able to source data on the composition of the Moon directly from the surface, but the orbiter will still be able to survey the lunar surface for data on where water might be found.