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India attempts to reconnect with lunar lander

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon launched a spacecraft carrying a rover on July 22, the start of a much-touted mission to explore the unexplored south pole of the moon.

The ending didn’t go nearly as well.

After a long journey, the lander approached the lunar surface on Sept. 7, but scientists from India’s space agency lost contact with it mere moments ahead of the landing.

Now engineers and scientists from the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) are trying to reconnect with the lander to continue the mission.

The attempt to land was going as planned until the Vikram lander was about 2 kilometers above the moon’s surface.

There’s still hope that the lander and Pragyan rover didn’t sustain substantial damage and can continue all or part of the mission.

The latest report from ISRO revealed the lander had a hard landing but remains in one piece. However, it didn’t land flat.

A successful landing would have put India in a elite group of nations that have accomplished a soft landing on the moon, including the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

“The Chandrayaan-2 mission was a highly complex mission, which represented a significant technological leap,” ISRO said in a statement. “The success criteria was defined for each and every phase of the mission and till date 90 to 95% of the mission objectives have been accomplished and will continue contribute to Lunar science.”

In addition to the lander and rover, the agency also included an orbiting spacecraft in the launch vehicle. The camera on the orbiter has the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and will provide images for the global scientific community.

ISRO says the Chandrayaan-2 mission is “to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.”

If space officials aren’t able to reestablish a connection with the lander, this would be the second moon-bound mission of the year that has failed just before landing.

In April, the Israeli Beresheet lunar lander also malfunctioned and failed just before touchdown; that lander was destroyed.

However, this is far from the last attempt to reach the south pole of the moon. NASA is currently planning to send astronauts there in 2024.

There’s a lot of interest in the south pole. Planetary scientists have received new data over the last decade that indicates there are water ice deposits on the south pole. Scientists believe these deposits could be used for life support and to manufacture rocket fuel for future deep-space missions.

The total cost for the Chandrayaan-2 mission has been estimated to be about $145 million. It has been in development for nearly a decade.

Ben Bolton looks at everything through a video lens.

India attempts to reconnect with lunar lander

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission lander was thought to be lost on the surface of the moon, but now ISRO officials are trying to reconnect with it.

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