India’s moon lander goes dark

A crash landing?

On September 7, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) moon mission lost contact with its ‘Vikram’ lander moments before it was due to touch down on the moon’s surface. The lander was intended to explore the lunar surface, search for water and minerals, and measure moonquakes. The mission, Chandrayaan-2, followed India’s 2008 mission, which orbited the moon and identified water ice within the craters on the moon’s South Pole.

What went wrong?

On Sunday ISRO Chairman Dr. K Sivan confirmed that Chandrayaan-2 had captured images of Vikram on the lunar surface, but the module had an “unintended hard landing” on the surface. Director of India’s 2008 mission, Chandrayaan-1, Mylswamy Annadurai, said that obstacles on the moon’s surface could be interfering with communication signals. Others suggested that the Vikram lander’s orientation may have been disrupted or the lander’s central engine malfunctioned. NASA commended ISRO’s “inspiring” attempt on Twitter.

One large step . . .

Chandrayaan-2 would have made India the fourth country to land on the moon, and the first to touch down on the moon’s unexplored South Pole. While ISRO will continue to try to establish a connection with the lander for 14 days, the organization reports that around 90 per cent of the mission’s objectives have been accomplished. While Chandrayaan-2 marks an important step for India’s space program, questions will remain about what caused the lander to lose contact. Regardless, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who witnessed the end of the moon mission from ISRO’s control room in Bangalore, later commented, “As important as the final result is the journey and the effort.”