Nature mourns the apparent loss of India’s first lunar lander, which stopped transmitting as it descended to the Moon’s south pole:
Mission control at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) tweeted that the descent had gone as planned until the lander, called Vikram, reached 2.1 kilometres above the lunar surface. “Subsequently, communication from Lander to the ground stations was lost,” the tweet said. “Data is being analyzed.”
The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter later located Vikram using its on-board cameras. The agency’s chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan told the Press Trust of India that it must have been a hard landing. Efforts to establish contact with the lander are continuing, he said.
Had the touchdown been successful, India would have become the first country to land near the lunar south pole, and the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon, after the United States, the Soviet Union and China.
Although Vikram’s landing did not go as planned, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which carries eight Indian instruments, is functioning normally, ISRO officials said. Some of these instruments will search for signs of water on the Moon.
Vikram was carrying three Indian instruments and one from NASA, and the rover was carrying two Indian instruments. They were designed to gather data on the Moon’s surface.
It is the second time this year that a mission to the Moon has encountered problems during landing. In April, the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crash-landed on the surface after having engine trouble just moments before touchdown.