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India’s Space Agency Locates Lunar Probe that Was Feared Lost as It Was Making its Final Approach

The Vikram lander was just two kilometers above the moon's South Pole Saturday when ground controllers lost contact with the spacecraft

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India, Space, Agency
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) employees react as they listen to an announcement by organizations's chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan at its Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bangalore, India, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. VOA

India’s space agency says it has located the lunar probe that was feared lost as it was making its final approach towards the surface last weekend.

The Vikram lander was just two kilometers above the moon’s South Pole Saturday when ground controllers lost contact with the spacecraft. The Indian Space Research Organization said Tuesday the Chandrayaan-2 probe has discovered the lander on the surface, but had not yet established communications with Vikram, named after Vikram Sarabhai, the scientist regarded as the “father” of India’s space program.

If the probe landed intact, India will join the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to achieve a soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon. It will also become the first nation to attempt a controlled landing on the moon’s South Pole.

India, Space, Agency
India’s space agency says it has located the lunar probe that was feared lost as it was making its final approach towards the surface last weekend. Pixabay

The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mothership entered lunar orbit nearly a month after it was launched aboard India’s powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark Three rocket.  The Vikram lander was designed to release a small rover that will roam the moon’s surface in search for signs of water, and to assess its topography and geology.

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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. (VOA)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)