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  1. India Loses Contact with Vikram Lander During Historic Moon Landing Attempt India lost contact with its Vikram lunar lander Friday (Sept. 6) during a daring attempt to make history as the first country to land near the south pole. The landing anomaly may have dashed Indian dreams of becoming just the fourth country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the moon. Long, tense minutes stretched out inside the mission control center for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which designed the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had arrived onsite at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, about half an hour before touchdown of the landed component, dubbed Vikram, was scheduled to take place. That announcement came at 4:48 p.m. EDT (2048 GMT) from K. Sivan, the director of ISRO. "Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 kilometers [1.3 miles]," Sivan said in an announcement at mission control. "Subsequently the communications from the lander to the ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed." Data comparing the planned trajectory of the Vikram lander with telemetry from the spacecraft. (Image credit: ISRO) Modi spoke after Sivan's announcement, appearing to bolster downcast spirits in mission control as they investigated the issue. "Be courageous," he said. "What we achieved is not small," Modi added. "Wish you all the best." Sivan did not specify when ISRO would be able to provide updates about the fate of the Vikram lander. According to data shown during the descent maneuver, the lowest altitude reported back to Earth was 0.2 miles (0.33 kilometers) above the lunar surface. A plot comparing live data received to the mission's trajectory suggested that Vikram was about 0.6 miles (1 km) horizontally off-track from the targeted landing site when communications stopped. "India is proud of our scientists!" Modi wrote in a Twitter update shortly after learning of the anomaly. "They've given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!" "We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme," he added. Chandrayaan-2 consisted of three components — an orbiter, a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan — which together launched to the moon on July 22 atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket. It took nearly 7 weeks to arrive at its destination; Chandrayaan-2 arrived in lunar orbit on Aug. 20, and the lander separated from the orbiter on Sept. 2 to begin its descent to the lunar surface. The lander and the rover were designed to spend one lunar day — about 14 Earth days — investigating the lunar surface with a variety of scientific instruments. Both were expected to shutdown come nightfall at the moon's south pole, because they weren't built to withstand to frigid temperatures of the lunar night. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with ISRO director K. Sivan after the agency lost communications with the Vikram lander. (Image credit: ISRO) Despite the demise of the Pragyan lunar rover and Vikram lander, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue studying the moon from afar for about a year. From its vantage point at an altitude of about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon's surface, the orbiter uses eight scientific instruments and cameras to study Earth's natural satellite from afar. The following are among the payloads: An X-ray spectrometer to measure the abundance of different elements on the moon. A solar X-ray Monitor, which studies high-energy radiation from the sun. A dual-frequency synthetic aperture radar to map the lunar surface. The Chandrayaan-2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 (CHACE 2), which studies the composition of the moon's exosphere, or ultrathin atmosphere. A radio science experiment that will study electrons in the moon's ionosphere. Today's possible failure may mark the second time ISRO has crash-landed a spacecraft on the moon. The country's first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008 and consisted of only an orbiter, which successfully conducted vital research at the moon, and an impactor. Chadrayaan-1 operated for about 10 months. Chandrayaan-2 bears some similarities to Chandrayaan-1, but it carried new and improved technologies that ISRO is testing for future planetary missions — like its next mission to Mars. India had announced tentative plans to launch a third moon mission called Chandrayaan-3 in 2024. Like Chandrayaan-2, that mission would include a lunar rover. India was striving to become the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface, after the United States, Russia and China. The fatal crash of the Vikram lander comes just months after Israel's first moon mission, Beresheet, met a similar fate. But unlike Beresheet, Chandrayaan-2's mission lives on in the orbiter that will circle the moon, alone two weeks before its time. Source: India Loses Contact with Vikram Lander During Historic Moon Landing Attempt
  2. India to Attempt Moon Landing at the Lunar South Pole Today. How to Watch Live The moon landing is set for between 4 and 5 p.m. EDT (2000-2100 GMT). Update for 5:28 pm ET: ISRO officials lost contact with the Vikram lander during its descent to the lunar surface. Read our full story. India is about to land where no one has before on the moon, and you can watch it all online. The Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander Vikram, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is scheduled to land amid the craters of the moon's south pole today (Sept. 6). Touchdown is scheduled for sometime between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. EDT (2000-2100 GMT, 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sept. 7 IST). ISRO will live stream the landing in a webcast beginning at 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT, 1:10 a.m. IST). You can watch the Indian moon landing webcast here and on Space.com's homepage, as well as directly from the ISRO webcast here. The target landing site for India's Chandrayaan-2 mission to explore the lunar south pole. (Image credit: Indian Space Research Organisation) Chandrayaan-2 is the second to the moon by India, following on the heels of the Chandrayaan-1 mission, but this latest project is tackling lunar exploration in more extensive fashion.Whereas Chandrayaan-1, which explored the moon from 2008 to 2009, was just an orbiter, Chandrayaan-2 has an orbiter, lander and the small rover Pragyan. The purpose of Chandrayaan-2 is to study the mysterious moon from top to bottom, including its topography, mineralogy, exosphere, elemental abundance and even possible seismic activity. With seven instruments aboard the orbiter, three aboard the lander and a further two attached to the rover, there will be no stone left unturned. India launched the Chandrayaan-2 mission on July 22 atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The mission entered orbit just under a month later, with the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter placed into orbit 62 (100 meters) above the lunar surface. Once settled, the orbiter’s cameras, spectrometers and radars will get to work in finding the elusive lunar water ice and hydroxyl (molecules containing the oxygen and hydrogen bond) signatures. The Vikram lander, which also contains the Pragyan rover, disengaged from the orbiter on Monday (Sept. 2) to prepare for today's landing. The Vikram lander has a unique science payload. It contains a thermophysical experiment to measure the surface’s thermal properties, an instrument designed to study the surface’s ionosphere and atmosphere, and lastly a seismic activity instrument, which will allow scientists to delve deeper into the moon than any other instrument before. About four hours after Vikram's (hopefully) successful landing, the Pragyan rover will be deployed from the lander, releasing the mini-tank of scientific adventure onto the lunar surface. India's Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are designed to last one lunar day (14 Earth days), though Chandrayaan-2 is expected to spend a full year studying the moon from above. The Chandrayaan-2 mission has a full cost of about 10 billion rupees (about $145 million), ISRO officials have said.' Visit Space.com today for complete coverage of India's Chandrayaan-2 Vikram landing on the moon. Source: India to Attempt Moon Landing at the Lunar South Pole Today. How to Watch Live
  3. India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter Releases Vikram Lunar Lander On Sept. 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter successfully released its Vikram lander in lunar orbit as seen in this illustrated depiction. (Image: © India Space Research Organisation) The two halves of India's moon mission have parted ways in preparation for the tensest moment of the entire endeavor. Today (Sept. 2), the Chandrayaan-2 mission split into two separate spacecraft: an orbiter that will circle the moon's poles for about a year and a lander that will, later this week, attempt India's first touchdown on the moon. "All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter and Lander are healthy," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials said in a statement. The separation occurred around 3:45 a.m. EDT (745 GMT). So far, both spacecraft are faring well in their separate orbits, ISRO officials added. The Chandrayaan-2 mission launched in July, taking the slow road to the moon, where it arrived in orbit on Aug. 20. Since then, mission control staff at ISRO conducted a series of orbital adjustments to put the spacecraft on track for the south-pole-oriented mission. The orbiter component of the mission builds directly on the legacy of India's first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, which carried the instrument that identified water ice buried in dark craters near the lunar south pole. The spacecraft carries eight different science instruments onboard, including two cameras, devices to identify different elements in the moon's regolith and to calculate the amount of water ice with it, and an instrument that will measure X-rays emitted by the sun. The Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, with the rover Pragyan on its ramp, as seen before the spacecraft's July 2019 launch. (Image credit: ISRO) Now, the lander component is on its own, with several days on its schedule to orbit the moon, endure a series of health checks and fine-tune its position for landing. That dramatic moment will come on Sept. 6 at about 4:25 p.m. EDT (2025 GMT) at the end of a 15-minute powered-descent phase, according to Spaceflight Now. The mission's landing zone is on a plateau between two craters and is farther south than any moon landing site to date — a key requirement for the landed component to follow up on Chandrayaan-1's icy discovery. The landing will occur early in the lunar day in order to maximize the data that can be gathered before the harsh lunar night freezes the spacecraft out of operation. The lander, called Vikram, carries three experiments: one to study the moon's ionosphere, one to study temperature within the top 4 inches (10 centimeters) of the lunar surface and one to study moonquakes. The lander also carries a laser retroreflector that scientists will use to precisely measure the distance from Earth to this patch of the moon, even long after the lander runs out of energy. Vikram also carries a rover, dubbed Pragyan, that weighs about 60 lbs. (27 kilograms). The rover is scheduled to leave its berth on the lander about 4 hours after arrival on the lunar surface. Pragyan carries two instruments that will help the rover identify elements near the mission's landing site. If the landing is successful, the maneuver will mark India's first soft landing on the moon, making it the fourth country to accomplish that feat, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. Source: India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter Releases Vikram Lunar Lander
  4. India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Scouts the Moon in New Lunar Photos A view of the north polar region of the moon as seen by Chandrayaan-2 on Aug. 23, 2019. (Image credit: ISRO) India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is settling into orbit around the moon and has an incredible view as it waits to try to make history. The spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit on Aug. 19 (Aug. 20 local time at the Indian Space Research Organisation's mission control) and is currently conducting a series of maneuvers to tweak that orbit in preparation for a landing attempt in less than two weeks. As it does so, the spacecraft is capturing stunning images of the moon's pitted surface, including a set taken on Aug. 23 by the vehicle's Terrain Mapping Camera 2. Those images include one showing the lunar north pole, including Plaskett, Rozhdestvenskiy, Hermite, Sommerfeld and Kirkwood craters. A second image shows a region of the far side's northern hemisphere, including the Jackson, Mach, Mitra and Korolev craters. Chandrayaan-2 is settling into an orbit sweeping between the poles of the moon. In about a week, the orbiter will separate from the rest of the mission and continue on this path for the next year or so. The probe is modeled on India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which carried the instrument that confirmed the presence of water ice in craters near the moon's poles. A view of the far side of the moon captured by the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on Aug. 23, 2019. (Image credit: ISRO) The lander portion of the spacecraft, with a rover tucked on board, will head toward the surface near the moon's south pole, attempting India's first soft lunar landing. If the maneuver is successful, the country will become just the fourth to have accomplished such a feat, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. Landing is scheduled for Sept. 6 (Sept. 7 at mission control). Source: India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Scouts the Moon in New Lunar Photos
  5. India has launched an ambitious mission to the Moon "Today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India." Enlarge / India's GSLV Mark III rocket is seen on the launch pad with its lunar payload. ISRO On Monday, an Indian rocket launched a spacecraft bound for the Moon from Sriharikota, a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal coast. This Chandrayaan-2 mission is the second spacecraft India has sent to the Moon, and it represents a significant effort to explore the lunar surface and its potential as a source for water ice. The GSLV Mark III rocket lifted off Monday after an eight-day delay due to a technical issue, and the launch proceeded normally. "Today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India," K. Sivan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organization, said after the launch. "I'm extremely happy to announce that GSLV Mark III successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into the defined orbit." Although this is India's most powerful rocket, the GSLV vehicle only has a little more than one-third the lift capacity of a Falcon 9 rocket, so the 3.85-ton payload must follow a circuitous path through space in order to gain enough energy to reach, and then settle into lunar orbit. It is due to reach orbit around the Moon in September. After that point, on Sept. 7, the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover will separate from the orbiter and descend to the surface of the Moon, targeting a region near 70 degrees south on the lunar surface. In doing so, India will attempt to become just the fourth country—after the United States, Russia, and China—to successfully softly land a spacecraft on the Moon's surface. In addition to a small rover, the Indian lander will carry 14 scientific payloads. The primary goal is to assess the lunar environment and attempt to map potential deposits of water ice on the Moon. The mission is scheduled to last about 14 Earth days, the length of a lunar day when sunlight is available. The orbiter will remain in operation for a year. Previously, India flew the Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon in 2008. This consisted of a lunar orbiter and an impactor that helped confirm the existence of water ice on the Moon. That discovery helped kick off something of a global race back to the Moon, in which India, China, and the United States have all developed and begun to fly missions to assess the amount and availability of this water for a variety of purposes, including the production of rocket fuel by breaking the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Source: India has launched an ambitious mission to the Moon (Ars Technica)
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