Only 60% lunar missions in last 6 D\decades successful

According to the US space agency's Moon Fact Sheet, only 61 out of the 109 lunar missions - or 60 percent during the last 60 years were successful.

Lunar missions undertaken in the last 6 decades have had a success rate of 60 percent, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has said.
According to the US space agency's Moon Fact Sheet, only 61 out of the 109 lunar missions - or 60 percent during the last 60 years were successful.

On Saturday morning, the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) attempt at a soft-landing on the moon did not go as planned, with the ground control losing communication with Chandrayaan 2's lander Vikram during its final descent.

ISRO officials said the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter is functional and will remain working for a year or more.

It was just last year that Israel's lunar mission - Beresheet - crash-landed on the moon in April.

From 1958 to 2019, India as well as the US, the USSR (now Russia), Japan, the European Union, China and Israel launched different lunar missions - from orbiters, landers and flybys.

The first mission to the moon was planned by the US in August 17, 1958, but the launch of Pioneer spacecraft was unsuccessful.

The first successful mission to the moon was Luna 1 by the USSR on January 4, 1959. It was also the first moon flyby mission. The success came only in the sixth mission.

In a span of a little more than a year, from August 1958 to November 1959, the US and the USSR launched 14 missions.

Of these, only three - Luna 1, Luna 2 and Luna 3, all launched by the USSR - were successful.

The Ranger 7 mission launched in July 1964 by the US was the first to take close-up pictures of the moon.

Japan, the European Union, China, India and Israel were late entrants.

Japan launched Hiten, an orbiter mission in January 1990. This was also Japan's first moon mission. After that, in September 2007, Japan launched Selene, another orbiter mission.

 There were six lunar missions from 2000 to 2009 - Europe (Smart-1), Japan (Selene), China (Chang-e 1), India (Chandrayaan 1) and the US (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCCROSS).

From 2009 to 2019, at least 10 missions have been launched of which six have been sent by India, three by the US and one by Israel.

Moonshot Ends in Failure for India and Its Water-Hunting Rover.

India’s attempt to land a probe on the moon’s southern pole failed, dealing a major blow to its ambitious space program.

The country’s space agency lost communication with a lander and a rover near the satellite’s surface, minutes before a scheduled touchdown. The Chandrayaan-2 craft’s descent was normal until an altitude of 2.1 km (1.3 miles) before communication was lost early Saturday in India, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, K. Sivan, said in a televised broadcast.

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong’s fabled first steps on the lunar surface, India tried to become just the fourth nation to pull off a soft landing on the moon. Only the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China have managed that without damaging their vehicles. Chandrayaan-2, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, had planned to analyze virgin territory on Earth’s closest neighbor for signs of water and helium-3.

Hours after the failed attempt, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the attempt to land with dozens of school children from around the country, met top ISRO scientists in the mission control center in Bengaluru. In a televised speech invoking nationalism, Modi said India’s resolve to conquer space has only gotten stronger after the failure, and went on to comfort a teary-eyed Sivan with a long embrace.

“You came as close as you could. Stay steady and look ahead,” Modi said in the 25-minute speech. “Resilience and tenacity are central to India’s ethos.”

Chandrayaan-2 had captivated millions in India as the event turned into a symbol of national pride. On social media, Indians challenged each other to watch the landing rather than sleep, while neighbors planned late-night landing parties. At today’s prices, the mission cost less than 0.05% of the bill for the milestone voyage of Apollo 11 in 1969, which carried Armstrong and two other astronauts.

The Indian space agency will analyze data on the landing sequence, Sivan said. The mission also has a lunar orbiter that continues to take images of the moon and conduct other science experiments.

Its flight had suffered an inauspicious start: an initial launch attempt in mid-July was aborted minutes before liftoff because of a technical problem. The mission then launched July 22 and entered a lunar orbit on Aug. 20.

Space-faring nations, as well as billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, are competing in an unofficial space race, from launching satellites to sending astronauts and tourists into space.

India and China are locked in a geopolitical space race of sorts as a way to assert regional dominance and establish a presence in space exploration. China was the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon while India focused on being first at the southern pole, the same spot the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is targeting in 2024 with its Artemis mission.

The lunar south pole has long been of interest to scientists. The surface is believed to contain essential resources, while permanently shadowed craters are thought to hold millions of tons of water. The hunt for helium-3, an isotope limited on Earth, is important because it’s so abundant on the moon it could theoretically meet global energy demands for 250 years -- if harnessed.

Modi has sharpened India’s focus on space since coming to power in 2014, with a pipeline of ambitious flights. India plans to send a mission to study the sun next year, another to Venus three years later, and eventually establish its own space station. It’s also working on a $1.4 billion Gaganyaan mission, which aims to put three Indian “gaganauts” into orbit.

All is not lost for Chandrayaan-2 as orbiter to give crucial mission data

India may have missed the opportunity to attempt a historic soft landing on the moon, but its Chandrayaan-2 would continue to explore the earth’s only natural satellite with the help of orbiter that remains in orbit around the moon.

The box-shaped orbiter which weighs roughly around 2,379 kgs is currently revolving around the moon, nearly 100 kms above its surface. Out of the total 13 payloads that Chandrayaan-2 carried, as many as seven are onboard the orbiter which is set to collect one of the most crucial data for the mission.

During the next one year, it will continue to collect remote sensing observations that will help the scientists at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to strengthen their understanding of Earth’s only natural satellite. Lander Vikram was planned to support these observations with data collected from the landing site near the unexplored region of lunar South pole.

The small Terrain Mapping Camera-2 aboard orbiter would help create a high resolution, 3-D map of the lunar surface that will give insights into the origin and evolution of moon over the years.

A major goal of the mission is to study the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface, which is crucial for undertaking future deep space missions. This data would be provided by the soft x-ray spectrometers on the orbiter which will examine the presence of major elements such as Magnesium, Alumnium, Silicon, Iron, Sodium, Titanium and Calcium and help scientists to study the elemental composition of the moon.

The spectrometers would detect these elements by measuring the characteristic X-rays they emit when excited by the solar rays. The Solar X-ray monitor would measure the intensity of these solar radiations reflected off the moon’s surface.

Another payload called the Imaging IR Spectrometer would provide a high resolution quantitative data on the availability of water-ice on the moon, to build on the findings of Chandrayaan-2 which gave the world evidence of presence of water on the moon in 2008.

Apart from seven payloads, it also has one experiment that it will conduct while orbiting around the moon.

The major findings from India's first mission to the moon had come from the orbiter which continued to provide data for almost an year after the launch in October 2008. A lunar impact probe that was part of the mission had just impacted the lunar surface.

Chandrayaan 2 setback: PM Narendra Modi consoles an emotional Isro chief

Isro chairman K Sivan broke down soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his speech following the setback of Vikram lander.

The Prime Minister was seen hugging and consoling the Isro chief shortly after leaving the Isro headquarters following his speech. He also exchanged a few words with Sivan as the Isro chief took time to regain his composure.

In a motivational speech, PM Modi told the Isro scientists not to get disheartened by the hurdles in the moon mission Chandrayaan-2 and asserted that there will be a "new dawn".

Isro's plan to soft land Chandrayaan-2's Vikram module on the Lunar surface did not go as per script in the early hours of Saturday, with the lander losing communication with ground stations during its final descent.

During his speech, the PM saluted the scientists for their immense contribution in making India proud through space missions and said, "Friends I could feel what you were going through few hours back, your eyes were conveying a lot. You live for India's honour, I salute you".

Chandrayaan-2: We shall overcome some day, says President Kovind

"Hum honge kamayab, mann me hai vishwas, poora hai vishwas hum honge kamyaab ek din," this is how President Ram Nath Kovind summed up his thoughts on the Chandrayan-2 mission on September 7.

ISRO's plan to soft land Chandrayaan-2's Vikram module on the Lunar surface did not go as per script in the early hours of Saturday, with the lander losing communication with ground stations during its final descent.

The president hoped that India would be successful in its moon mission the next time.

He said he himself had seen the massive carrier, "bahubali", in Sriharikota when he visited the assembly point.

"We covered 3.84 lakh-km journey successfully, only 2.1 km were left. The distance left is negligible on such a huge scale. It's such a huge achievement," he said.

It was just a coincidence and not misfortune.

"I would say 'Hum honge kamayab, mann me hai vishwas, poora hai vishwas hum honge kamyaab ek din'," he said.

Lauding the scientists for their commitment to their work, the president said he had met a scientist who had left her baby back in Bengaluru.

Kovind said ISRO Chairman K Sivan and his team will be our role model in the times to come.

ISRO’s Vikram Lander is lost, but this hardly matters. Here’s why

The maximum amount of science in ISRO's Chandrayaan-2 mission is supposed to be done by the instruments onboard the Orbiter which is in perfect health and communicating with the ground station.

Though the expected soft-landing of the Vikram Lander was not accomplished, the Chandrayaan-2 mission is far from over. In fact, in science terms, very little has been lost. But in terms of optics, it is definitely a huge setback for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The lander had begun its descent normally and, for the first 13 minutes, decelerated as per the plan. But after that, the deceleration does not seem to have gone ahead as per the requirement. The most possible consequence of this scenario is that the lander went on to crash-land on the moon’s surface with a speed greater than was required for a safe landing

But in the most optimistic case, it could only be a problem of communication failure. It is possible that Vikram landed on the moon as planned, but midway through its journey stopped communicating with the ground station. The chances of this having happened are extremely slim, considering that the graph on the screens of the control room depicting the expected and actual deceleration did begin to diverge after 13 minutes from the descent. So the speed was noticed to be larger than required even before communication was lost.

It is possible to re-establish contact with an object in space with which communication has been lost. It has happened before, even with ISRO. Some years ago, one of the satellites had lost contact with a ground control, and after a lot of effort and several manoeuvres, it was re-established. But that satellite was in orbit and not hurtling towards a planetary body at great speeds.

But the failure to make a soft-landing does not bring the Chandrayaan-2 mission to a close. Far from it.

The maximum amount of science in the mission is supposed to be done by the instruments onboard the Orbiter which is in perfect health and communicating with the ground station. This includes the search for further evidence of water on the moon, and an assessment of its relative abundance.

The lander and rover were supposed to have a lifespan of only 14 days, and their science output would have been limited. The two instruments on the Pragyaan Rover were supposed to collect information to assess the elemental composition of the moon’s surface and determine the relative abundance of different elements near the landing site.

The lander had three instruments which were meant to study the lunar atmosphere, its temperature gradient and thermal conductivity. One of the instruments was also supposed to measure seismic activity on the moon’s surface near the site of landing.

“In terms of science, this mission is very much alive and has a lot to deliver. It is not yet over,” said a retired ISRO scientist.

One Small Step Back for Chandrayaan-2 is Precursor to Giant Leap for India’s Space Programme

India's space programme speaks well of its technological and scientific capabilities and assures it a seat at the most exclusive high table of all: the comity of space-faring nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's warm, consoling embrace of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Sivan said it all: One small step back for Chandrayaan-2 is a precursor to a giant leap forward for India's space programme.

Modi dispelled gloom and restored confidence at ISRO's mission operations complex in Bengaluru after the Vikram lander lost touch with the ground station, seconds before it was to land on the lunar surface. It was a heart-stopping moment, one that went beyond platitudes and politics.

The PM shared those nail-biting minutes of hope, uncertainty and mounting disappointment with the ISRO scientists every step of the way. He responded to the eventual denouement with equanimity, brushing aside the 11th hour snafu with heartfelt encouragement and praise.

“We are all proud of India's space programme. Today, our resolve to touch the moon has grown even stronger...There will be a new dawn,” he said.

The nation saw the PM at his most human and empathetic, genuinely proud of his scientists, grateful to them for their dedication and committed to backing their vision. He set the tone for the political establishment and on social media. From across the spectrum, accolades and cheers poured in for #ISRO and #Chandrayaan2.

The very fact of Modi’s soothing presence at the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Control Network on Friday night, before the lander was to make contact with the lunar surface and after it went 'dark', made all the difference. There was no outcry of disappointment or criticism; the nation came together to celebrate its scientific prowess, rather than denigrate a setback.

It also underlines the importance that Modi attaches to ISRO, which has taken a lead in rocket and satellite technology (ISRO has launched almost 300 satellites for other countries, with 104 famously launched at one go.) So much so that the human spaceflight programme figured in the 2019 BJP manifesto. It promised to put an Indian “vyomnaut” in space in an Indian spacecraft, as part of the ‘Gaganyaan’ mission. Already, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has shortlisted test pilots for training as “vyomnauts”.

India's space programme speaks well of its technological and scientific capabilities and assures it a seat at the most exclusive high table of all: the comity of space-faring nations. There has been much speculation of a “space race” between China and India, with the former having stolen a march thanks to its human spaceflight mission and the planned Tiangong 'modular' space station.

But the renewed interest in space exploration worldwide, after the post-Cold War hiatus, is based on a pioneering rather than a competitive spirit, unlike in the 1960s. Private entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, not to mention the Mars One project, are less motivated by profit than the need to aim for the next big thing.

That is ISRO's vision as well. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan, ISRO's maiden interplanetary mission, has been orbiting Mars since 2014. Next year, ISRO plans to launch its Aditya-1 mission to study the sun. A second mission to Mars and another to Venus are on the cards, as well as more lunar missions. In the long term, ISRO plans to build a habitat on the lunar surface -- as a launch pad for further exploration of the solar system.

At this stage of human civilisation, it is hard to dismiss space travel as pie in the sky, or the stuff of Hollywood fantasies like The Martian. A hundred wannabe Martians – three Indians among them – were selected for a one-way ticket to the red planet under the Mars One programme. The company may have gone bankrupt, but others have taken the ball and are running with it. Musk, for one, is aiming for a manned mission to Mars in the next eight years, followed by a settlement.

Exoplanets, circling other stars, are now an integral part of post-millennial vocabulary. New ones are spotted every day and each new discovery of a potentially habitable planet in the 'goldilocks' zone of relatively nearby stars is a beacon for human explorers. A cornucopia of worlds and resources is out there and someday, soon, will be within humankind's grasp.

Space is the 'final frontier'. The PM has signalled, unequivocally, that India is committed to getting there.

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