India’s attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon’s South Pole on Saturday appeared to end in failure.
The initial parts of the descent, as engines fired to slow it down from orbit, went smoothly. But less than two miles above the surface, the trajectory diverged from the planned path and the craft lost contact, the New York Times reported.
If India had managed the landing, it would have been the fourth country to do so after the U.S., Russia and China. U.S. astronauts first walked the moon 50 years ago last month.
All the systems of the orbiter and the lander had been "healthy," the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement earlier.
India's space agency did not declare the mission as lost, saying only it had lost communication with its unmanned spacecraft as it prepared 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."
The roughly $140 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.
The mission took off from southern India July 22. The attempt at India's first moon landing on a relatively flat surface on Saturday was meant to study previously discovered water deposits.
The roughly $140 million mission is known as Chandrayaan-2, the Sanskrit word for "moon craft."
Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water
Space agency chairman Dr. K. Sivan has said that landing on the lunar surface involves a lot of technical complexities — an event he described as "15 terrifying minutes."
India plans to send humans into space by 2022.