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.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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