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.


Kartarpur corridor deal between Pakistan and India to be signed on Oct. 24

Updated 23 min 17 sec ago

Kartarpur corridor deal between Pakistan and India to be signed on Oct. 24

  • Border crossing will give Indian Sikhs visa-free access to Darbar Sahib in Pakistan

NEW DELHI, LAHORE: India has postponed signing a deal that will allow Sikhs to visit a holy shrine in neighboring Pakistan without a visa, a Foreign Ministry official in New Delhi was reported as saying.

The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, in India’s Punjab region, to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. 

The visa-free border crossing will be inaugurated next month, days ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder.

Media reports said that the signing of the deal had been pushed back by a day to Oct. 24 and that C. L. Das, an official handling internal security at India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, would meet Pakistan officials along the border to sign the agreement.

The corridor is a rare example of cooperation and diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February following a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir. 

Ties nose-dived further in August when India flooded its portion of the disputed valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.

But finalizing the corridor project has proved tricky.

Earlier this week, India’s External Affairs Ministry said it was disappointed by Pakistan’s decision to levy a $20 service fee per pilgrim.

“It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continue to insist on levying a service fee,” said the ministry. “Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee. While agreeing to sign the agreement, the government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.”

The connecting bridge at the border was also a significant issue. India favored an elevated bridge but Pakistan was only willing to build an embankment, fearing a possible breach in security.

New Delhi said all the infrastructure was in place in time for the project’s inauguration, which is expected to be attended by former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Islamabad has also invited Singh to be part of the inaugural ceremony but he has yet to accept. Despite the bumps in the road Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was upbeat about the unveiling.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” he posted on Facebook. “World’s largest gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”

Although the opening of the corridor is unlikely to lead to any kind of bilateral engagement or rapprochement between the two nations, Sikhs will be relieved that it is easier to access the shrine in Kartarpur. 

The community has long sought easier access to Kartarpur, a village just four kilometers over the border in Pakistan, as it used to demand a lengthy visa and travel process.

Pilgrims will get special permits to access the shrine. Up to 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to access the corridor daily.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor, but it is unclear if he will cross into Pakistan afterwards.