India has provided a clearer explanation as to what went wrong with the Chandrayaan-2 moon mission lander, which failed just short of a soft landing on the moon.
That’s been put down to problems with the landing system, which resulted in loss of control and a hard landing – too hard for the lander, named Vikram, to survive and it hasn’t responded to efforts to establish contact.
The explanation came in an answer to a question in the Indian Parliament, with Minister of State for the Department of Space Jitendra Singh revealing some new information on why the mission failed.
Had India succeeded, it would have joined a very exclusive club as just the fourth nation, after the US, Russia and China, to soft land a robotic probe on the moon.
The statement indicates what happened but not really why.
“The first phase of descent was performed nominally from an altitude of 30 kilometres to 7.4 kilometres above the moon surface,” the minister wrote.
“The velocity was reduced from 1,683m/s to 146m/s. During the second phase of descent, the reduction in velocity was more than the designed value.
“Due to this deviation, the initial conditions at the start of the fine braking phase were beyond the designed parameters. As a result, Vikram hard landed within 500 metres of the designated landing site.”
Minister Singh said most of the components of technology demonstration, including the launch, orbital critical manoeuvres, lander separation, de-boost and rough braking phase were successfully accomplished.
While the lander failed at the final hurdle, the orbiter remains fully functional.
“With regards to the scientific objectives, all the eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments of the orbiter are performing as per the design and providing valuable scientific data,” he said.
“Due to the precise launch and orbital manoeuvres the mission life of the orbiter is increased to seven years. The data received from the orbiter is being provided continuously to the scientific community. The same was recently reviewed in an all India user meet organised at New Delhi.”
Like Israel’s unsuccessful Beresheet mission to the moon in April, Chandrayaan-2 demonstrated that difficulties seem to emerge in the final moments.
Beresheet functioned perfectly until a technical problem in descent and it impacted the moon surface.
Up to now India has revealed few details and the minister’s statement to the Parliament is the first official acknowledgement that the mission actually failed.
Undeterred by the failure, India is reportedly planning another attempt for as early as next year.
Neither the Indian government nor the Indian Space Research Organisation have detailed their plans but media reports indicate preparations for the Chandrayaan-3 mission are well under way.
Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect here.