India loses contact with spacecraft shortly before moon landing

India’s historic attempt to complete a lunar landing appeared to fail on Friday, with the country’s space agency losing contact with the rover moments before it was supposed to land.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the scientists who joined the effort after the news, saying Saturday that “we came very close” but adding that “we will need to cover more ground in the time to come,” NBC News reported.

“In life, there are ups and downs. The country is proud of you,” Modi said, according to CNN. “And all your hard work has taught us something. … Hope for the best. … You have served the country well and served science and humanity well.”

Just before Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to land on the moon, the agency lost contact as images of the 3,200-pound lander, which carried a six-wheeled rover named Pragyan and scientific instruments, appeared to freeze on a computer screen, according to NBC.

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“Vikram lander descent was as planned and normal performance was observed till the altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently the communication from the lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analyzed,” said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, the country’s equivalent of NASA, CNN reported.

If it had been successful, India would have been one of four nations to successfully land an aircraft on the moon and the first to touch down near the lunar south pole. So far, the U.S., China and Russia are the only nations to land a spacecraft on the moon.

Israel attempted a lunar landing in April and also failed.

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