In DepthPlanetary Science

India spots fallen moon craft, fails to make radio contact

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Science  13 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6458, pp. 1069
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6458.1069

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Summary

Efforts to contact India's Chandrayaan-2 moon lander continued this week. The spacecraft had fallen silent on 7 September, moments before its intended touchdown near the south pole of the moon. On 10 September, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has spotted the lander, but officials declined to describe its condition. A successful landing would have made India the fourth nation to land on the moon, after the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. ISRO scientists believe a malfunction occurred during the probe's 15-minute autonomous descent to the surface. ISRO data, broadcast live, indicated that the lander deviated from its preprogrammed trajectory and could not control its speed. If it had touched down successfully, closer to the moon's south pole than any previous mission, the 1477-kilogram Vikram lander would have released a small solar-powered rover, which would have collected data for 14 Earth-days, before the dark and cold of lunar night set in.

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