Apart from ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2, there were many incidents of failed moon landing missions in history. Here we are mentioning a few of them including the first attempt by the United States.
Chandrayaan-2 is the second lunar exploration mission developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), after Chandrayaan-1. It consists of a lunar orbiter, the Vikram lander, and the Pragyan lunar rover, all of which were developed in India.
On 7 September 2019, at about 1:52 am IST, the Vikram lander deviated from its intended trajectory at around 2.1 kilometres from landing and the last location of the spacecraft showed it to be 1km from its landing site.
Similar to Chandrayaan 2, there were many such failed moon missions attempted by many other countries.
Failed Moon Landing Missions
United States’ Pioneer 0 (Able 1): The First Failed Moon Mission (August 17th, 1958)
Pioneer 0 was designed by the United States Air Force (USAF) as the first satellite in the Pioneer program and was one of the first attempted launches beyond Earth orbit by any country, but the rocket failed shortly after launch.
The probe was intended to be called Pioneer (or Pioneer 1), but the launch failure precluded that name.
The first attempted launch by United States beyond Earth orbit; failed to orbit due to turbo-pump gearbox malfunction resulting in first stage explosion. The satellite reached apogee of 16 km. It was the orbiter mission.
The Thor-Able was an American expendable launch system and sounding rocket used for a series of re-entry vehicle tests and satellite launches between 1958 and 1960.
It was a two-stage rocket, consisting of a Thor IRBM as a first stage and a Vanguard-derived Able second stage. On some flights, an Altair solid rocket motor was added as a third stage. It was a member of the Thor family and an early predecessor of the Delta.
Sixteen Thor-Ables were launched, nine on sub-orbital re-entry vehicle test flights and seven on orbital satellite launch attempts. Six launches resulted in failures, in which three of those failures were the result of an Altair upper stage added to the rocket to allow it to launch the spacecraft onto a trans-lunar trajectory.
The operation was carried out by the United States Air Force (USAF), is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services.
Israel’s Beresheet Mission (February 22nd, 2019)
On 11 April 2019, at approximately 1900 UTC, the Beresheet mission’s lander began its deorbit and landing procedure.
Within minutes before the expected landing, mission control received a “selfie” photograph from the probe with the lunar surface visible in the background.
Firstly, during the braking procedure on approach to the landing site, the craft’s main engine stopped operating. The engine was brought back online following a system reset.
Secondly, the craft had already lost too much altitude to slow its descent sufficiently. The spacecraft arrived at the surface of the moon, but at a speed and angle that did not allow for a soft landing. Having apparently crashed, communication with the lander ended, thus making it another failed Moon landing mission.
The first Israeli and first privately funded lunar lander mission. Instrumentation included a magnetometer and laser retro reflector. Spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface after main engine failure during descent from lunar orbit phase.
The mission was carried out by Falcon 9, which is a two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicle. It was designed and manufactured by SpaceX in the United States.
It is powered by Merlin engines, also developed by SpaceX, burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants. Its name is derived from the Millennium Falcon and the nine engines of the rocket’s first stage.
SpaceIL is an Israeli organization, established in 2011, that was competing in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) contest to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
It entered lunar orbit on 4 April 2019 at 14:18 UTC. On 11 April 2019, during the landing procedure, a problem occurred in the final minutes of flight.
Communications were lost with the spacecraft, long enough for the braking process to fail. Thereafter, the vehicle crashed on the lunar surface.
China’s Longjiang 1 (May 21 2018)
The Long March 4C, also known as the Chang Zheng 4C, CZ-4C and LM-4C, previously designated Long March 4B-II, is a Chinese orbital carrier rocket.
The Longjiang-1 was launched on the same rocket as Queqiao and Longjiang-2 but it never entered Moon orbit.
So, it was launched from the Jiuquan, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre and Xichangs, and consists of 3 stages.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) is the national space agency of China. Consequently, it is responsible for the national space program and for planning and development of space activities.
CNSA and China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) assumed the authority over space development efforts previously held by the Ministry of Aerospace Industry.
Japan’s Hagoromo Mission (January 24th, 1990)
The Hagoromo was deployed from Hiten. There was a communication failure, it entered seleno-centric orbit but returned no data. It was also an orbiter mission.
The mission was carried out by Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) is a Japanese national research organization of astrophysics using rockets, astronomical satellites and interplanetary probes which played a major role in Japan’s space development. Since 2003, it is a division of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The Mu, also known as M, was a series of Japanese solid-fuelled carrier rockets. They were launched from Uchinoura between 1966 and 2006.
They were originally developed by Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. However, Mu rockets were later operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency following ISAS becoming part of it.
Russia’s Luna 23 (October 28th, 1974)
Luna 23 was a Soviet Moon lander mission which was intended to return a lunar sample to Earth. Launched to the Moon by a Proton-K/D, the spacecraft tipped over on its side and was damaged upon landing in Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises).
The sample collecting apparatus could not operate and no samples were returned. The lander continued transmissions for three days after landing.
NPO Lavochkin carried out the mission, also called Lavochkin. Research and Production Association or shortly Lavochkin Association (LA) is a Russian aerospace company.
It is a major player in the Russian space program. It is the developer and manufacturer of the Fregat upper stage, as well as interplanetary probes such as Fobos-Grunt.