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India’s Ambitious Mission to Land Unmanned Probe on Moon Suffers Setback

Millions in the country stayed awake to watch live images of the "soft landing" that was to place a lander on the unexplored south pole

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India, Moon, Mission
FILE - This photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization shows its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII, carrying Chandrayaan-2, lift off from Satish Dhawan Space center in Sriharikota, India, July 22, 2019. VOA

 India’s ambitious mission to land an unmanned probe on the moon suffered a setback when its space agency lost contact with the landing craft minutes before it was to make a critical touchdown on the lunar surface.

It was a disappointment for a country that had hoped to successfully demonstrate a feat achieved by only three other countries so far — the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Millions in the country stayed awake to watch live images of the “soft landing” that was to place a lander on the unexplored south pole of the moon around 2 a.m. local time Saturday. It was the most challenging component of India’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2.

All appeared to be on track, but the mood in the mission control room changed in the final moments when the lander was about 2 kilometers away from the lunar surface.

 

India, Moon, Mission
It was a disappointment for a country that had hoped to successfully demonstrate a feat achieved by only three other countries so far — the United States, the former Soviet Union and China. Pixabay

“The Vikram lander descent was (ongoing) as planned and normal performance was observed,” chairman of India’s Space Research, Organization, K. Sivan, said in a brief announcement. “Subsequently, communication from lander to the ground stations was lost. Data is being analyzed.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had been monitoring the landing with space scientists at the mission control room in Bengaluru, lauded their efforts. “Ups and downs keep coming in life. Your hard work has taught us a lot and the entire country is proud of you,” he added.

He later tweeted, “India is proud of our scientists! They’ve given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous and courageous we will be.”

With contact lost, it is not clear if the vehicle landed safely on the lunar surface or not.

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’15 minutes of terror’

Landing on the lunar surface is a complex maneuver fraught with challenges and had earlier been described by ISRO head Sivan as “15 minutes of terror.” It involves reducing the velocity at which the lander comes down to ensure a touchdown so soft that it prevents damage, tilting or crashing. Only about half the 38 attempts to land on the moon have been successful.

India had hoped that mastering technology for soft landing would provide critical building blocks to mount further missions to Mars and other planets.

“Suppose you want to land something on Mars or do some docking activity, this knowledge is very critical,” Mukund Rao, an expert in space technology, said. “If you just orbit around say the Mars and moon, it does not give you the capability of  landing and colonizing and doing some exploitation.”

 

India, Moon, Mission
India’s ambitious mission to land an unmanned probe on the moon suffered a setback when its space agency lost contact with the landing craft. Pixabay

Indian scientists said the roughly $140 million mission was meant to study the south pole because a larger area there remains in shadow, increasing the possibility of water and making it a likely target for moon habitation.

There has been massive renewed interest in exploring the moon in recent years. China landed a craft earlier this year and the U.S. space agency has plans to put astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Chandrayaan-2 was a huge step up from India’s previous space explorations, such as its first moon mission in 2008 and a mission to Mars in 2013 that involved sending a spacecraft to the Red Planet.

There had been a massive groundswell of national pride in the mission. In the hours before the landing, television anchors had called it “historic” and “epochal,” and schoolchildren across the country cheered it enthusiastically. Some students had been invited to watch the soft landing attempt with the prime minister.

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India has a smaller space program compared to countries like the United States and and trails its Asian rival China, but it is mounting more ambitious programs hoping to get into the league of major space faring nations.

Prime Minister Modi is supportive of more space missions  analysts say the nationalist leader sees them as a symbol to underline the country’s rising stature. Planning is already underway for a manned mission to space by 2022, and robotic probes to Mars and Venus over the next decade. (VOA)

Next Story

Novel Coronavirus: Government Deploys Health Team on Nepal Border

Many Indian students studying in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak have been stuck there

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Coronavirus
The Coronavirus outbreak, which has so far caused 41 deaths in China, and caused the country to quarantine 16 cities, is causing comparisons to the 2003 spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which decreased the value of the global economy by $40 billion. VOA

In the wake of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Nepal, the Union Health Ministry has subsequently strengthened its vigil in the areas bordering Nepal.

The recent deployment of health team has taken place at Panitanki in West Bengal, entry point from Nepal, said the Health Ministry on Monday.

“Update on #ncov2020 – Subsequent to confirmed #coronarvirus case in #Nepal, vigil strengthened at Panitanki (West Bengal) entry point from Nepal,” the ministry tweeted.

Earlier on Sunday the ministry had informed that in response to confirmed case of the new virus in the neighbourhood country Nepal, India stepped up vigil in districts bordering Nepal. The health ministry said that teams of medical experts were also deployed at border outpost with Nepal at Jhulaghat and Jauljibi in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand.

Coronavirus
Southeast Asia’s proximity to China and dependence on that nation for a major share of its economy is raising concerns that the coronavirus outbreak  that started there will not only have health impacts but harm the region’s economies. VOA

In continuation of its efforts to stop the virus from entering in India and making the passengers aware, the ministry has also displayed signage advising the passengers for self reporting and other precautions, disseminated through advisories, at the Mumbai airport.

According to the health ministry, a total of 29,707 passengers from 137 flights have been screened. Fortunately, no case of coronavirus has been found till date.

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According to the announcement made by Chinese health authorities on Monday, 2,744 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including 461 in critical condition and a total of 5,794 suspected cases have also been reported. The killer virus has caused 80 deaths in China, as per Chinese authorities.

Many Indian students studying in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak have been stuck there. The health ministry said it is working closely with the Ministry of External Affairs and is in touch with the students. (IANS)