India's space hopes dashed for now with loss of lunar lander

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 7, 2019

(Or you can simply use the embed below.) ISRO says the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram will attempt a powered descent towards the Moon between 1-2am IST, before attempting a touchdown between 1:30-2:30am IST.

Reportedly, the historic landing is going to be witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi accompanied by 60-70 high school students from across the country at the ISRO centre in Bengaluru.

The spacecraft also carries an orbiter, lander and a rover, all nearly entirely designed and made in India.

The control room burst into applause during the so-called rough breaking phase of the descent, with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi watching the action from behind a glass screen.

India was aiming to join the United States, Soviet Union/Russia and China as the only nations to have soft-landed on the moon.

"India is proud of our scientists!"

National Geographic has roped in former NASA astronaut Jerry M. Linenger - he flew aboard the US Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1997 and lived on the Russian Space Station Mir for over four months - to serve as an expert voice for their coverage of Chandrayaan-2 landing. "Let us hope for the best", Mr. Modi said. Let us move with courage. The spacecraft was launched in July 22 atop a GSLV Mk III rocket - and spent several weeks gradually tweaking its orbit to switch from Earth orbit to lunar orbit.

The spacecraft successfully initiated its landing sequence, but a few kilometers above the moon's surface the main engine failed, so the craft could not properly brake in time to cushion its landing.

It took almost 7 weeks to arrive at its destination; Chandrayaan-2 arrived in lunar orbit on August 20, and the lander separated from the orbiter on September 2 to begin its descent to the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan-2, which cost about $140m (£114m), far less than other missions, is an entirely indigenous project.

ISRO chairman K Sivan told Indian media in the run-up to the event the "very complex process" of final approach and autonomous landing would be "15 minutes of terror". Vikram houses the six-wheeled rover Pragyaan that will explore the lunar surface for around 14 Earth days.

Despite the demise of the Pragyan lunar rover and Vikram lander, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue studying the moon from afar for about a year.

The American Apollo 11 mission reached lunar orbit just 75 hours, 50 minutes after blast-off.

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