Vikram lander
This screen grab taken from a live webcast by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 6, 2019 shows Vikram Lander before it is supposed to land on the Moon. Image Credit: AFP

India's lunar space mission Chandrayaan 2 is attempting something no other mission has achieved before: making a soft, controlled landing in the moon’s south polar region. 

But the space agency lost communication with its spacecraft just before it was due to land near the South Pole of the Moon.

"The Vikram lander descent was (ongoing) as planned and normal performance was observed," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Sivan said in the control room at the southern city of Bangalore.

"Subsequently the communication from lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analysed," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday told ISRO scientists not to lose confidence after communication with the Vikram lander was lost while it was descending to the moon's South Pole.

Modi with Sivan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with ISRO Chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan. Image Credit: PTI

Interacting with the gloomy-faced scientists at the control room of the ISTRAC, the Prime Minister said: "Whatever you have done till now is no mean feat."

"The nation is proud of you. You all have served the nation and done a great service to science and mankind. Move ahead with lots of courage. I am with you, hope for the best," he said.

What is Chandrayaan 2?

Chandrayaan-2, which translates as "moon vehicle" in Sanskrit, is India's second lunar mission. It took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on July 22, a week after its first launch was called off due to a "technical snag". It was launched toward the moon atop a GSLV MkIII-M1 rocket.

Why is it important?

If all goes as expected, tonight India will become the fourth country in the world -- after the US, the former Soviet Union and China -- to make a soft landing on the surface of the moon.

The lander module, which has already detached itself from the main spacecraft and has been moving independently for the last three days, will begin what ISRO Chairman K Sivan has repeatedly referred to as “the most terrifying 15 minutes” of its journey.

India's most ambitious space project till date, Chandrayaan-2 aims to determine the extent of water presence on the Moon and understand the origins of the Solar System.

What will happen on the moon tonight?

Hours before Chandrayaan-2 historic landing on near the south pole of the Moon, the Indian Space Research Organisation released an animated video that shows in detail, what is planned for India's Chandrayaan 2 mission tonight. The video explains how the landing module will descend on to the lunar surface. The lander Vikram will start its descent from an altitude of 30 kilometres above the Moon. At this point, the lander will begin a curving, parabolic motion to bring itself close to a 90-degree angle to the Moon's surface.

Next, Chandrayaan-2's lander will activate its lander position detection camera (LPDC) that will scan the lunar surface to find a suitable spot for the spacecraft to land. Once it decides the landing site, the Vikram lander will perform a series of manoeuvres to gradually lower itself on to the lunar surface. In another parabolic motion, the lander will bring itself 10 metres above the lunar surface, which is when the final descent will take place at an angle of precisely 90 degrees to the lunar surface.

After landing, Chandrayaan-2's Vikram will deploy the three payloads that it carries on-board. The three payloads will do many experiments.

Around three hours post landing, Pragyan, the six-wheeled robotic rover, will eject out of the lander, and roam the moon’s surface and collect data. The shadowed south pole of the moon is estimated to hold about 100 million tonnes of water ice in its craters, and the findings by Chandrayaan-2 will massively help a manned NASA mission to this side in 2024.

Both Vikram and Pragyan are designed to last 14 days while the main spacecraft will continue to orbit the moon for at least a year.

When is it scheduled to land?

According to K Sivan, everything is going according to plan and the touch-down of the 'Vikram' lander is scheduled between 1.30 am and 2.30 am on Saturday (between midnight and 1am in the UAE). This will be followed by the roll-out of the rover 'Pragyan' between 5.30 and 6:30am.

Where you can watch it online?

The soft landing will be webcast live on ISRO website and streamed on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Like the rest of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too is keenly waiting for India make history when Chandrayaan-2's landing module touches down on the Moon in the early hours of September 7. "The moment 130 crore Indians were enthusiastically waiting for is here!," the PM tweeted, adding "In a few hours from now, the final descent of Chandrayaan - 2 will take place on the Lunar South Pole. India, and the rest of the world will yet again see the exemplary prowess of our space scientists."

The Indian Prime Minister will be in Bengaluru to witness the historic event live. According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), around 60- 70 students from across the country will be watching live the soft landing along with the PM.