India’s ambitions in space looked to have taken a significant hit on Friday after its Vikram lunar lander lost contact with controllers on final approach to the moon’s surface.
The condition of the craft is not known, but the worried faces and hushed murmurs in the control center—shown on a live-streamed feed—suggested officials feared the Vikram was lost.
An official in the control center told onlookers that the lander had performed normally until it reached an altitude of 2.1 kilometers above the moon’s surface, at which point it lost contact with controllers and screens in the control room stopped updating. “The data is being analyzed,” he said.
India was trying to become the fourth country to successfully land a craft on the moon, joining the U.S., the Soviet Union and China. Even without the landing, the mission would not be a total failure. The orbiter from which the Vikram launched will survey the moon’s surface for a year to collect data.