Space

India's Vikram lunar lander may be hiding in the shadows

India's Vikram lunar lander m...
A view looking down on the Vikram landing site (image acquired before the landing attempt)
A view looking down on the Vikram landing site (image acquired before the landing attempt)
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The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing September 7
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The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing September 7
A view looking down on the Vikram landing site (image acquired before the landing attempt)
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A view looking down on the Vikram landing site (image acquired before the landing attempt)
Targeted Vikram landing site
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A wide view of a series of Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera's narrow angle camera images collected on Sept. 17 showing the area of the targeted Vikram landing site

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has failed to pinpoint India's Vikram lunar lander. The space agency says that the unmanned spacecraft may be hiding in the shadows of the rough terrain of the Moon's south polar region, though it may be visible in a couple of weeks.

For three weeks now the fate of the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Vikram lunar lander has been a mystery. At 1:54 am IST (September 6, 20:24 GMT), mission control lost all contact with the spacecraft as it descended to an altitude of about 2 km of the lunar surface with the goal of making a soft landing in the lunar south polar region between Simpelius N and Manzinus C crater.

After the incident, ISRO chairman K. Sivan stated that the Vikram portion of the Chandrayaan-2 mission "must have been a hard landing" and tracking by a Dutch radio telescope indicated that the lander hit the surface at a speed of 50 m/s.

There were also claims that the ISRO had located Vikram and that the lander was intact, though there has been no official confirmation as to the spacecraft's condition or precise location. In addition, several attempts to communicate with Vikram by ISRO and NASA resulted in failure.

On September 17, NASA's LRO made a pass over the landing zone and took a series of images using its onboard cameras. Despite capturing high-resolution mosaics, the space agency was unable to find the lander. The most likely possibility is that, since it is currently dusk in the region, the long shadows from the mountains and crater rims are hiding the impact site.

NASA plans to try again when the LRO passes over the area again on October 14, when the lighting conditions will be more conducive for a search.

Source: NASA

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