India’s attempt to land near the south pole of the moon, part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, ended when mission managers lost contact with the lander, seconds before touchdown, just 2 kilometers from the moon’s surface. The lander, which would have made India the fourth nation to land on the moon after the United States, the Soviet Union and China, is presumed to be lost, although officials at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have not confirmed whether the spacecraft crashed or not.

When contact was lost, at 1:52 am Indian time, the mood in the ISRO mission control center in Bangalore was transformed. Cheerful smiles became sullen expressions on the faces of crestfallen scientists and engineers. A running mission commentary, part of a nationwide broadcast to millions of Indians, was stopped suddenly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was observing from just outside the control center, was briefed and left soon thereafter. A press conference, set for the next morning, was cancelled.

“Failure is part of the game, and India was attempting something it had never attempted before, had no experience in,” says Ajey Lele, a senior fellow with India’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, a government-funded think tank in New Delhi.Read More..