India loses communication with lunar lander shortly before scheduled landing on the Moon

A scene from India’s mission control room, after communication with the lander was lost | Image: ISRO

What was supposed to be India’s first soft landing on the Moon today appeared to end in failure when the country’s robotic Vikram lander seemingly crashed into the lunar surface during its powered descent to the ground. If it had been successful, India would have become the fourth country to land a spacecraft intact on the Moon. But for now, only the United States, Russia, and China hold that title.

The Vikram lander was a critical part of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission — a project aimed at learning more about the unexplored and highly intriguing south pole of the Moon. Numerous lunar spacecraft have gathered enough evidence about this region to suggest that significant amounts of water ice might be hiding on the south pole, likely in…

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