Full Moon by Gregory H. Revera / CC BY-SA 3.0

‘Failure is part of the game’: Indian spacecraft presumed lost after moon landing attempt

Sep 9, 2019

By Sanjay Kumar

India’s attempt to land near the south pole of the moon, part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, ended when mission managers lost contact with the lander—seconds before touchdown—just 2 kilometers from the moon’s surface. The lander, which would have made India the fourth nation to land on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, is presumed to be lost, although officials at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have not confirmed whether the spacecraft crashed.

When contact was lost, at 1:52 a.m. local time, the mood in the ISRO mission control center in Bengaluru was transformed. Cheerful smiles became sullen expressions on the faces of crestfallen scientists and engineers. A running mission commentary, part of a nationwide broadcast to millions, was suddenly stopped. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was observing from just outside of the control center, was briefed and left soon thereafter. A press conference, set for the next morning, was canceled.

“Failure is part of the game, and India was attempting something it had never attempted before, had no experience in,” says Ajey Lele, a senior fellow at India’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, a government-funded think tank in New Delhi.

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