India is reeling after a hugely disappointing attempt at a moon landing has failed — the nation's second ever mission to the moon — a decade after its first successful mission to launch a probe into lunar orbit.
Contact with the moon lander Chandrayaan-2 was lost overnight Friday, just before it was to send a module to land at the lunar south pole to observe and measure lunar ice. It's being commonly described as a last minute communications loss resulting in complete loss of control of the space craft.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the mission's failure on Saturday, telling the Indian Space Research Organization he was proud of the program which had come so close to mission success. It would have made India the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the moon, after the United States, former Soviet Union and China.
India has sought to assert itself as a space superpower, even as the now failed Chandrayaan-2 mission was initiated on a shoe-string budget — at an estimated $140 million — which is a fraction of what NASA spends on similar missions.
The lunar rover's planned mission had been described as follows:
The rover (called Pragyan - wisdom in Sanskrit) had the capacity to travel 500m from the lander in its 14-day life span, and would have sent data and images back to Earth for analysis.
The mission would have focused on the lunar surface, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, among other things.
The initial July 22 launch had been broadcast live to an audience of hundreds of millions, and there were reported nationwide lunar landing watch parties being held in the middle of the night Friday as news of the lost communication hit.
It's the second Indian space disaster in under a year as earlier an Indian test of an anti-satellite system broke up to dangerously create hundreds of pieces of space debris in low-Earth orbit. The failed satellite test and resulting space wreckage received wide international criticism.