India’s Vikram lunar lander lost contact during its descent

Animated graphics of Chandrayaan-2 landing module are displayed on a screen at a media center set up at Indian Space Research Organization’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bangalore, India, late Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The planned touchdown of the landing module of India’s unmanned moon mission known as Chandrayaan-2 on the moon’s south polar region is scheduled early Saturday.

The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is safe but its lander likely crashed.

Today India attempted to become only the fourth nation to successfully soft-land on the surface of the Moon. That mission appears to have failed, when the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with its Vikram lander at an altitude of 2.1km above the lunar surface. The space agency has said only that it is analyzing available data, and that the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is still in orbit. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address the nation at about 10:30 ET.

If the mission is lost, then out of three soft-landing attempts this year it will be the second to go awry. China’s Chang’e 4 reached the far side of the Moon in January, while the privately-owned Beresheet lander from Israel crashed in April after sending back one last photograph.

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