“Vikram lander’s descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communication from the lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analysed,” said K Sivan, chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation, speaking to a roomful of scientists and on a live feed being watched by millions of people, at 2:16 am on Saturday.
The lander carried by India’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, had launched itself towards the moon and fought against its gravity for more than 28 km, slowing down almost to a halt mid-air, when it lost contact.
The landing had two phases: rough braking, in which Vikram would fight against the moon’s gravitational pull using its onboard thrusters, and slow braking when it would finally, gently, land on the moon. The rough braking phase had been successful. The Prime Minister, scientists and schoolchildren watching the landing from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Bengaluru centre, were applauding at 1:47 am. Then silence fell upon the room. Everyone looked tense, and a group of scientists took the Prime Minister away for a huddle. He left the scientists with a few encouraging words, but did not return to his original seat. The scientists continued to confer….