India’s Vikram lander, with it the Pragyan rover, before launch. Image credit: The Verge

In a setback to India’s maiden attempt to land an unmanned spacecraft on the lunar surface, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with the Vikram lander around 2.1 km over the mono’s surface.

ISRO officials informed that the lander lost contact with the ground station as it began the 15-minute autonomous descent.

“It overcame a major hurdle of what is called as the rough breaking phase to go down from a height of 30 km to around 2.1 km,” ISRO officials informed.

ISRO chairman K Sivan had called it “15 minutes of terror” due to the uncertainty and the inability of the ground station to take control of the spacecraft during the descent.

The orbiter with several instruments on-board, however, continues to hover around 100 km over the moon.

The ISRO chairman immediately conveyed the message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi had arrived at the ISRO headquarters to witness the descent and the rolling of the rover.

The ISRO chairman further said, “As planned, normal performance was observed until an altitude of 2.1 km. Then communication from the lander to the ground station was lost.”

“The data is being analysed,” Sivan added.

PM Modi, on the other hand, urged the scientists to be “courageous and continue to work on other missions”.

“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!” the PM later tweeted.

“Chairman @isro gave updates on Chandrayaan-2. We remain hopeful and will continue working hard on our space programme,” the tweet added.

The Prime Minister would address the nation at 8 am later on the day.

The Rs 978-crore Moon mission was launched from the second launch-pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, in Andhra Pradesh.

Among those responsible for Chandrayaan-2 successful launch, the role of three scientists from Assam — J N Goswami, Dipak Kumar Das and Hidam Rajeev Singh, are worth mentioning.

ALSO READ: Assam takes pride as Chandrayaan-2 successfully enters moon’s orbit

Astrophysicist J N Goswami is the chairman of the advisory board for Chandrayaan-2 mission.

Dipak Kumar Das is the director of ISRO’s Space Applications Centre.

Hridam Rajeev Singh was a member of the team which produced the Stage I Solid Stage Rocket Boosters for Chandrayaan 2.

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