This NASA moon mission failure reminds of Chandrayaan 3’s exemplary moon landing by ISRO

This NASA moon mission failure reminds of Chandrayaan 3’s exemplary moon landing by ISRO


The first US moon landing attempt in more than 50 years suffered a major setback after a private company’s spacecraft suffered an anomaly hours after Monday’s launch. 

A private firm, funded by NASA, Astrobotic Technology managed to orient its lander toward the sun so the solar panel could collect sunlight and charge its battery. However, soon the spacecraft suffered a “critical” fuel leak, dimming hope for what had been a planned moon landing on February 23.

The problem was reported about seven hours after Monday’s predawn liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket provided the lift for Astrobotic’s lander, named Peregrine, putting it on a long, roundabout path to the moon.

Peregrine Mission One faces ‘technical issue’, NASA to learn from moon mission

According to the company, the propulsion system problem “threatens the ability of the spacecraft to soft land on the moon”.

This Nasa moon mission failure highlights how difficult moon landing is what ISRO achieved with Chandrayaan 3 last year.

NASA gave the two companies millions to build and fly their own lunar landers. Astrobotic’s contract with NASA for the Peregrine lander was $108 million and it has more in the pipeline.

Astrobotic was aiming to be the first private business to successfully land on the moon, something only four countries have accomplished, including India in 2023.

Mission moon: Two US private companies aim for commercial landings

Moon landing-success and failures

Landing on the moon has long been a series of hits and misses. The Soviet Union and the US racked up a string of successful moon landings in the 1960s and 70s, before putting touchdowns on pause. China joined the elite club in 2013 and India in 2023.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which successfully landed near the moon’s south pole in August 2023 was built and launched at a budget of $75 million. Chandrayaan-3 took 40 days to reach the moon using less powerful rockets and the slingshot method.

What after Chandrayaan-3? Economic activity on Moon, says ISRO chief

Private missions by Israel and Japan, as well as a recent attempt by the Russian space agency, have all failed — though Japan’s space agency is targeting mid-January for the touchdown of its SLIM lander launched last September.

Controlled touchdowns on the Moon are challenging, with roughly half of all attempts failing.

India’s first astronaut on Moon by…: ISRO chief Somanath unveils space plans

In the absence of an atmosphere that would allow the use of parachutes, a spacecraft must navigate treacherous terrain using only its thrusters to slow descent.

Moon soft landing

A soft landing is where the spacecraft touches down in a controlled manner. The speed comes down gradually and the spacecraft will touch the surface at almost 0 speed.

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 began the descent from a height of 30km with a speed of 1.68km per hour but while reaching closer to the Moon’s surface, the speed was reduced to zero. 

On 4th December, the Indian Space reserach Organisation (ISRO) said it moved Chandrayaan-3’s propulsion module out of lunar orbit and placed it high above Earth for a bonus mission, where it now survives on leftover fuel.

ISRO hasn’t revealed what it plans to do with the spacecraft when it runs out of fuel.

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Published: 09 Jan 2024, 11:15 AM IST


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