India's space agency says it has lost communication with its unmanned spacecraft that was set to touch down Saturday on the moon's south pole. "Communications from lander to ground station was lost," said K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. "The data is being analysed." It is not clear if the mission had failed, the AP reports. A successful landing would make India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third nation to operate a robotic rover there. The roughly $140 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, is intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.
Chandrayaan-2 was launched on July 22 and entered the moon's orbit on Aug. 20. The Vikram lander was close to touching down, per CNET. It had made it through the rough braking step that slows the lander as it descends to the lunar surface. Communication was lost just after it went into the fine braking phase. The mission includes an orbiter, a lander and a rover; the orbiter is functioning, but the condition of the other two wasn't known. Although the lander's fate wasn't clear, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those who offered encouragement while acknowledge the worst was possible. "These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!" he tweeted. Of the space agency, Sridhar V, a comedian, tweeted: "You’re already a winner ISRO. At the very least, tonight, you’ve inspired many a young mind." (Read more moon landings stories.)