- Dr K Sivan said normal performance was observed up to altitude of 2.1 km
- ISRO chief first briefed PM Modi and then made the announcement
- Dr Sivan had earlier described the final stage as "15 minutes of terror"
1.55 am on Saturday came and went. Amid a stunned silence at the ISRO mission control room, India's top space scientist K Sivan first briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then made the grim announcement. Communication to the Chandrayaan 2's lander Vikram was lost. At 3.10 am, an ISRO scientist - not the chief -- announced that a planned press conference had been called off.
"Vikram lander's descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, the communication from the lander to ground station was lost. The data is being analysed," K Sivan declared at around 2.16 am to a room full of crestfallen scientists at the centre in Bengaluru.
Moments before, applause followed the various successful stages of the lander's descent, described by ISRO as "15 minutes of terror" before landing at moon's south pole. The graph showed a normal trajectory.
In its last tweet at 1:49 am, ISRO said: "Rough breaking of #VikramLander ends and Fine braking phase starts. #Chandrayaan2 #ISRO."
As the nation waited for the big news, the tense faces in the control room were telling.
Then a group of scientists, including the ISRO chief, were seen walking to PM Modi, who stood up. The Prime Minister nodded and was seen leaving the spot from where he was watching the mission and walking down. The scientists appeared to be comforting Dr Sivan.
As PM Modi left, he patted the ISRO chief on his back and gave the scientists a pep-talk. "Don't lose hope. Be courageous. There are ups and downs in life. What you all have done is not a small thing. You have done a great service to the country, science and mankind. I am with you. I wish you all the best."
He later tweeted: "These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!"