India loses communication with its unmanned moon lander

It is not clear if the mission has failed.

India’s space agency said it lost touch Saturday with its Vikram lunar lander, as it aimed to land on the south pole of the moon and deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

The space agency was analysing data as it worked to determine what had happened.

It said the spacecraft’s descent was normal until two kilometres (1.25 miles) from the lunar surface.

“Let us hope for the best,” said Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who was at mission control in the southern city of Bengaluru.

“Communications from lander to ground station was lost,” said Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“The data is being analysed.”

A successful landing would make India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third nation to operate a robotic rover there.

The roughly £114 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, is intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

Mr Modi had travelled to the space centre to witness the planned landing in the early hours of Saturday and congratulate scientists who were part of the mission.

The space agency’s chairman had earlier called Chandrayaan-2 the “most complex mission ever” undertaken by the space agency.

India Moon Mission
Indian Space Research Organisation employees react as they listen to an announcement by chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan (Aijaz Rahi/AP)

The mission lifted off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan space centre, in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Chandrayaan-2 spent several weeks making its way to the moon, ultimately entering lunar orbit on August 20.

On September 2, Vikram separated from the mission’s orbiter, and the lander began a series of braking manoeuvres to lower its orbit and ready itself for landing.

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