Bengaluru: The gloomy faces of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation's tracking centre at Bengaluru said it all.
They were awaiting the Chandrayaan-2's touch down on the south pole of the Moon. They looked upbeat until 1:55am as the mission's lander, Vikram, began its descent towards the lunar surface. A few minutes later, they all looked gloomy as things did not go as expected.
At 2:30am, ISRO chief K Sivan announced that communication from Vikram lander to ground station was lost, and the data is being analysed.
He did not say the mission was a failure.
The Vikram lander was only 2.1km away from its designated landing spot when its communication with the orbiter snapped.
All was going well with the 1,471 kg Vikram that began its descent from an altitude of 30 km at a velocity of 1,680 metres per second. The lander was smoothly coming down with ISRO officials applauding at regular intervals and their faces beaming with pride.
The lander successfully completed its rough braking phase with its descent speed going down well.
It was then communication was lost, throwing a pall of gloom at the ISRO centre where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and students from across the country had gathered.
On the screen it was seen that Vikram slightly changed from its planned path and then the link got snapped.
Meanwhile, the 2,379 kg Chandrayaan-2 orbiter continues to fly around the moon. Its mission life is one year.
ISRO may have lost Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander and rover Pragyan housed inside it, a senior official of the space agency associated with the unmanned moon mission told PTI.
“It's as good as lost. There is no hope. Very, very difficult to re-establish contact" said the senior official who is closely associated with the mission.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi patted on the back of the senior space scientists, who looked dejected, and told them that he stands with them. Later, he tweeted congratulating the scientists.
"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," read the tweet.
"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 ISRO official, who did not want to be identified, told IANS.
A successful landing would have made India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve a soft landing on the moon, and the second nation after China to launch a mission to the lunar south pole.
A lander (Vikram) is a spacecraft which descends and comes to rest on the surface of an astronomical body. A rover (Pragyaan) is capable of moving around on the astronomical body under its own power after it has landed.
Earlier, ISRO Chairman had said the soft landing was going to be a "terrifying" moment as the ISRO has not done it before.