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A view of the moon on May 13, 2019. Photo: Laurent Emmanuel/AFP/Getty Images

India's attempt to land on the Moon last week first appeared to be unsuccessful but reports now suggest its Vikram lander is actually intact on the lunar surface.

What's happening: Mission Control lost touch with the Vikram lander when it was just above the Moon's surface, indicating that something went wrong during its descent. On Tuesday, India's space agency confirmed in a statement that the lander was found by the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter circling the Moon, but they haven't been able to communicate with it.

Details: "All possible efforts are being made to establish communication with lander," the statement reads.

  • According to an unconfirmed report from India Today, the lander is also reportedly in one piece but made a “hard” landing and is “tilted."
  • “Any non-optimal [landing] could destroy vital electronics making communication unlikely. But we live in hope,” geologist Clive Neal of the University of Notre Dame told Axios.

Context: The lander, which carried a rover with it, was expected to function on the Moon's surface for 2 weeks, descended toward the Moon's surface, plunging the spacecraft into lunar night, when temperatures can dip as low as about -300°F.

  • Scientists think the Moon’s south polar region could be rich in water-ice, and Vikram was designed to investigate that idea.
  • Researchers think that it might be possible in the future to mine water from the Moon in order to enable exploration, so characterization missions to learn more about what kind of resources are actually there are key.

The big picture: India has been working toward establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in space.

Go deeper: Axios Deep Dive — The Moon

Go deeper

Trump grants flurry of last-minute pardons

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

President Trump issued 73 pardons and commuted the sentences of 70 individuals early Wednesday, 11 hours from leaving office.

Why it matters: It's a last-minute gift to some of the president's loyalists and an evident use of executive power with only hours left of his presidency. Axios reported in December that Trump planned to grant pardons to "every person who ever talked to me."

Trump revokes ethics order barring former aides from lobbying

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty

Shortly after pardoning members of Congress and lobbyists convicted on corruption charges, President Trump revoked an executive order barring former officials from lobbying for five years after leaving his administration.

Why it matters: The order, which was signed eight days after he took office, was an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to "drain the swamp."

  • But with less than 12 hours left in office, Trump has now removed those limitations on his own aides.

Trump pardons former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy

President Trump has pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Why it matters: Broidy was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee early in Trump’s presidency, and attempted to leverage his influence in the Trump administration on behalf of his clients. The president's decision to pardon Broidy represents one last favor for a prominent political ally.

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