In great endeavours, advancement is less about a checklist of achievements and more a function of corrective actions taken. Shortly after 2am on Saturday, India had a moment of heartbreak when Isro chief K. Sivan declared that mission control for Chandrayaan-2 had lost contact with its lander Vikram 2.1km above the lunar surface that it was trying to soft-land on. Data was being analysed, he said. While some scientists suspect that excessive brake thrust may have knocked the craft off-course, we await an official report on what went wrong. All is well with our Moon orbiter, thankfully, and so over 90% of the project’s tasks are safe.

On Sunday, the orbiter spotted Vikram. If it’s damaged and can’t be linked up, we must take its loss in our stride. The touchdown was a very difficult manoeuvre, as can be seen in the patchy first-shot record of other space-farers. Our resolve to “embrace the Moon", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “has only become stronger". Reportedly, Isro’s next attempt will be a joint gig with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. What’s crucial, though, is the learning we draw from Vikram. Ascending this curve is what we should most care about.

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