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Photo: NASA/Goddard/LRO

The chairman of India's space agency said Sunday that the country's lunar lander has been detected by a thermal image on the moon's surface, but that the agency is still trying to establish contact, Asian News International reports.

Driving the news: India's attempt to land a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon for the first time on Friday appeared to have failed, with "communication from the lander to the ground stations" lost, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation's Mission Control Centre.

Why it matters: If the Vikram lander did touch down and mission control can establish communication, it would make the nation only the 4th — after the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China — to successfully operate a mission on the lunar surface.

K. Sivan, the director of the Indian Space Research Organisation, told Asian News International it's uncertain what condition the spacecraft is in and that it's "premature to say anything."

Details: It's not yet clear why the lander lost contact with Mission Control just before it was expected to land.

  • Vikram separated from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter around the Moon on Sept. 2 and slowly started to descend, losing speed and preparing for landing in the Moon's south polar region.
  • Vikram and the small Pragyaan rover it carried were expected to investigate the water-ice environment on that part of the Moon.
  • Scientists have long thought that the Moon's poles likely contain a fair amount of ice, which researchers think might be able to be converted into fuel for farther afield missions one day.

The big picture: India has been working to cement itself as a space superpower.

  • Earlier this year, the nation launched a test of an anti-satellite system that created hundreds of pieces of space debris in low-Earth orbit and drew criticism from the international community. China, Russia and the U.S. have also successfully tested their own anti-satellite systems.
  • India inserted a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, where it's still gathering data today.

Context: If communication with the lander is not established, this will be the second lunar landing failure this year. The main engine of Israel's Beresheet lander malfunctioned just ahead of its own expected touchdown on the Moon in April.

Go deeper ... Factory Moon: Axios' special report on Earth's nearest neighbor

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

4 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."