India’s attempt to be the first nation to land close to the south pole of the Moon has unfortunately been thwarted as contact with Chandrayaan-2 was lost minutes before its Vikram module was due to touch down at the lunar south pole.
The Chandrayaan-2 approached the Moon as normal and completed the so-called rough breaking phase of the descent; a period ISRO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan described as "15 minutes of terror". However ISRO stopped receiving data from the lander when it was at an altitude of 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles) above the surface, officials said.
The fate of the craft is not yet known, but data is being analysed said Deviprasad Karnik, ISRO scientist, according to reports by ANI. “We don't have any result yet. It takes time. We are not sure,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at ISRO to watch the landing of Chandrayaan 2, consoled scientists of the mission saying that he was proud of a programme that had come so near to putting a probe on the Moon.
A soft landing on another planetary body would have made India the fourth nation to achieve such a feat - an endeavour that just three other countries have managed so far. It would also have been a huge technological achievement for ISRO and the country’s space ambitions.
But not all is lost. The Chandrayaan 2 orbiter still remains in orbit and will continue to study the Moon from afar. "Only 5 per cent of the mission has been lost - Vikram the lander and Pragyan the rover - while the remaining 95 per cent - that is the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter - is orbiting the moon successfully," an official of ISRO told news agency IANS.
The Chandrayaan 2 mission stood out because of its low cost. Compared with the US who spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion on its Apollo missions, India spent approximately $140 million. Indeed, even the budget for Hollywood movie Avengers: Endgame, was more than double at an estimated $356m.
"The best is yet to come in our space programme,” Mr Modi said as he addressed students present at the ISRO Centre last night. “Aim big in life and never let disappointment enter in the way of achieving goals,” he added.