India has lost communication with a lander it sent to the southern pole of Moon, dealing a blow to its ambitious space mission that aimed to establish the country’s reputation as a scientific power.
Vikram, the lander of the mission called Chandrayaan 2, went silent when it was 2.1 km away from the lunar surface, said K Sivan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). "Subsequently the communication from lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analysed," said Sivan.
Communication was lost a few minutes before the scheduled landing at 1.55 am.
Isro’s control room in Bengaluru was abuzz with enthusiasm but fell into silence after Sivan and other scientists got up from their seats and went up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was sitting at the gallery. Former Isro chairmen K Radhakrishnan, A Kiran Kumar and Kasturi Rangan were seen patting Sivan in the gallery after the conversation.
"The country is proud of you. I have heard that some communications from the satellite is happening. Let us hope for the best. My hearty congratulations. You have contributed a lot to the people. I am with you. Let us be courageous," said Modi.
India is proud of our scientists! They’ve given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!Chairman @isro gave updates on Chandrayaan-2. We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme. — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 6, 2019
Experts said that it would not be right to predict the fate of the mission without an official announcement. It appears that Vikram faced a glitch when it was reducing its velocity from several hundreds of kilometre per second to a near zero—a process called soft-landing.
Soft-landing, which Sivan had earlier called the "most terrifying 15 minutes" of the mission, is a challenge. As many as 37 per cent of the landing missions have failed in the past.
Chandrayaan 2 aimed to carry out studies on the presence of water at the moon’s south pole, unexplored by any other nation before.