India had big dreams of becoming only the fourth nation to land on the moon. Things went smoothly with its Chandrayaan-2 orbiter up to the point where the spacecraft sent the lander down to the surface of the moon. Had things gone as planned, the rover would have roamed the unexplored south pole of the moon.
The lander was lost shortly after the orbiter released it. At the time, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) didn’t offer much in the way of details on what happened. All the ISRO said was that there had been a loss of contact with the lander and noted that the data was being analyzed.
The Indian government has now issued a brief report on what happened. The reason for the loss of the spacecraft is straightforward – the lander’s brake thrusters malfunctioned, and it crashed. Jitendra Singh, the Indian minister for the Department of Space, the ISRO parent department, said that “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 m of the designated landing site.”
The space agency gave no details on what exactly caused the landing system to malfunction. The ISRO was quick to point out that it has had success with the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft in orbit around the moon collecting information. The agency said that all eight of the state of the art scientific instruments on the orbiter are performing as designed. The statement offered by Singh is believed to be the first acknowledgment that the spacecraft crashed.