India locates missing Moon lander

Above, the Vikram Lander before it was supposed to land on the moon in this on August 6, 2019 file photo. (Indian Space Research Organisation/AFP)
Updated 10 September 2019

India locates missing Moon lander

  • The lander, called Vikram, was due to touch down on the Moon in the early hours of Saturday, but contact was lost around 2.1 kilometers above the surface
  • India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars

NEW DELHI: Indian space scientists were desperately trying Tuesday to establish communication with their broken Moon lander, having located the probe that went silent moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing.
The lander, called Vikram — after the founder of India’s space program — was due to touch down on the Moon in the early hours of Saturday, but contact was lost around 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) above the surface.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) tweeted an update on its Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2“) mission, which blasted off in July with India hoping to become just the fourth country to make a successful soft lunar landing.
“#VikramLander has been located by the orbiter of #Chandrayaan2, but no communication with it yet. All possible efforts are being made to establish communication with lander,” the space agency said.
The emerging Asian giant’s most complex space mission, carrying an orbiter, lander and rover, was almost entirely designed and made in India — and cost a relatively modest $140 million.
Indian media reports have said that the lander suffered a “hard landing,” possibly damaging it and the rover inside.
The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported on Monday that the lander was unbroken but was lying tilted on the lunar surface, and that the chances of restoring communication were low.
“Unless and until everything is intact, it’s very difficult (to re-establish contact),” PTI quoted an unnamed ISRO official as saying.
“Only if it had a soft landing, and if all systems functioned, could communication can be restored. Things are bleak,” the official said.
The ISRO was not immediately available to comment on the claims.
Only the United States, Russia and New Delhi’s regional rival China have made a successful soft landing on the Moon, and India had hoped to be the first on the lunar South Pole.
According to the ISRO, the orbiter will continue to circle the Moon for almost seven years, providing “high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community.”
India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars.
In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, and in 2017 India’s space agency launched 104 satellites in a single mission.
In March India shot down a low-orbiting satellite, prompting criticism for creating “space junk” that could damage the International Space Station, something rejected by New Delhi.


Philippines begins termination of US deal

Earlier, Duterte said he would give the US a month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa. (AP)
Updated 1 min 41 sec ago

Philippines begins termination of US deal

  • The move comes after Washington canceled the visa of President Duterte's ally

MANILA: The Philippines has started the process of terminating the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows the deployment of US forces to the country to conduct military exercises, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced on Friday.
The move comes one day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to do away with the agreement if the US did not reinstate the visa of his political ally and former police chief, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Although in a speech on Thursday night the president said he would give the US one month to restore Dela Rosa’s visa before terminating the VFA, Panelo told reporters the process had already begun.
“The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly,” he said, adding he had relayed the matter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
Locsin, in a Twitter post on Friday, confirmed he had called Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “to start the process of terminating the VFA.”
Lorenzana, in a statement on Friday evening, said that he would discuss with the president “the various scenarios concerning the possible termination of the VFA, and what future actions may be undertaken by the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding this matter.”
The defense chief said he could understand why the president was angered by the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa, over alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with the government’s anti-drug war.
“It is a direct affront to (the president) being the architect of the drug war upon his assumption of office,” the defense chief said.
He noted that Duterte ordered Dela Rosa when he was installed as police chief in 2016 to launch the drug war, and promised to back him. “He is just being true to his promise,” Lorenzana stressed.
Dela Rosa himself said details surrounding the revocation of his US visa remain unclear to him. He added that it “might be related” to the anti-drug war.
The Philippines Department of Justice said it was studying the “proper procedure to terminate the VFA.”
Responses from Philippine lawmakers have been mixed.
“In the absence of a Philippines Supreme Court ruling on the president’s power to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement like the VFA, without the consent of a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members of the senate, the president can do that without the senate’s approval or consent,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the VFA termination would work in favor of China, and so did not come as a surprise.
According to Lorenzana: “The termination of the VFA may be unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and it is well within the right of the government to do so if it determines that the agreement no longer redounds to our national interest.
“Such a termination does not need the approval of the Philippine Congress. All that is required is that a notice of termination be served to the US government. The termination shall take effect 180 days after the date of the notice,” the defense chief stressed.