India lost contact with its lander Saturday after its historic attempt to become the first nation to complete a landing on the Moon’s south pole.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) suffered a huge setback Saturday. The space agency lost contact with the rover moments before the landing.
The initial parts of the descent went smoothly. But less than two miles above the surface, the trajectory diverged from the planned path. The mission control room fell silent as they lost communications with the lander. The Vikram lander went silent just 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface.
Its descent had been going “as planned”, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.
“Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost,” he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. “The data is being analyzed.”
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However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the scientists who joined the effort after the news. He said that “we came very close” but adding that “we will need to cover more ground in the time to come.”
India had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia, and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing and the first on the lunar South Pole.
“In life, there are ups and downs. The country is proud of you,” Modi said, according to CNN. “And all your hard work has taught us something. … Hope for the best. … You have served the country well and served science and humanity well.”
The Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is, however, “healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit”, the ISRO said.