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India loses connection with Moon lander during final descent

The ISTRAC mission control in Bangalore had just announced that the lander, dubbed Vikram, had it successfully completed the hard braking maneuver and began fine braking. Its trajectory appeared to deviate slightly from the optimal projected course.

The descent was proceeding as planned up to the attitude of 2.1 kilometers, when communication was lost, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Sivan announced.

The ISRO is now analyzing the data to determine what happened, Sivan said.

Delivered by Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, the Vikram was aiming for the south pole of the moon, where it was to deploy a small rover – dubbed Pragyan – and look for signs of water.

Looking at the numbers on the screen – 58m/s at 330m up – I don’t believe Vikram had the TWR to stop in time from that situation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in the gallery to observe the landing, left the ISTRAC before the official announcement of the lander’s status. He later tweeted that India was proud of its scientists and that this was the moment to be “courageous.”

“We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space [program],” Modi said.

With India’s failure to deliver the lander to the surface gently enough, the Moon Club remains fairly exclusive. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have successfully landed a man-made device on the Earth’s satellite so far.

Israel’s first-ever lunar lander, dubbed Beresheet, crashed and burned during the landing attempt back in April.