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India Loses Contact With Lander Moments Before Attempted Touchdown On Moon

Minutes before the scheduled touchdown of the Vikram Lander, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced mission control had lost contact.

The lander was part of a roughly $204 million lunar mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits. These craters were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

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The robotic lander named Vikram was carrying another rover called Pragyan, and together these two vehicles were set to explore the south pole of the moon. No people were on board the mission.

On Saturday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced it had lost contract with Vikram mere minutes before touchdown as scientists and officials, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, watched on.

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The Vikram Lander's trajectory during its descent towards the moon. Photo: ISRO

The ISRO Chief K Sivan said they were analysing the data from the lander descent, which went ahead as planned.

A live stream of the event was hosted by the ISRO online and as the rover carried out its descent scientists and officials began to look concerned.

It is not clear if the mission had failed and the ISRO has not confirmed if the lander did actually crash.

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Scientists and officials at mission control during the live stream of the attempted landing. Photo: ISRO

The lander made a six-week-long journey and entered the Moon's orbit on August 20.

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

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PM Modi was at mission control and told the room to "be courageous" when news broke that communication with the lander had been lost.

Feature Image: ISRO