Space

NASA finally pinpoints crash site of India's lost lunar lander

NASA finally pinpoints crash s...
The impact point of the Vikram lander can be seen in the center of the image
The impact point of the Vikram lander can be seen in the center of the image
View 3 Images
Image shows the crash site for India's Vikram lunar lander, with debris denoted in green and disturbed soil in blue
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Image shows the crash site for India's Vikram lunar lander, with debris denoted in green and disturbed soil in blue
Before and after shots reveal the landing spot for the Vikram lander
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Before and after shots reveal the landing spot for the Vikram lander
The impact point of the Vikram lander can be seen in the center of the image
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The impact point of the Vikram lander can be seen in the center of the image

NASA has pinpointed India’s missing Vikram lander through the lens of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, bringing an end to a three-month search for the fragmented spacecraft. New images from the NASA orbiter reveal the exact spot that the lander impacted on the Moon, along with how far its debris is scattered across the surface.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission was all going to plan on September 7 as mission control released the Vikram lander module from the orbiting spacecraft in a bid to make India just the fourth nation to touch down on the Moon. But contact was lost on descent, with the Vikram lander going silent around 2 km (1.2 mi) from the surface and remaining that way since.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials told local press soon after that the lander had been located on the surface and that it must have endured a hard landing. They then set about re-establishing contact, though visual evidence or confirmation of the destroyed lander’s whereabouts had not been forthcoming.

For the past few months, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the Moon with mission control keeping an eye out for India’s lost lander. By collecting images of the area the ISRO had targeted for its Moon landing, the team was able to compare before and after shots of the surface and tease out some differences that have now revealed its whereabouts.

The main crash site and impact crater is surrounded by a smattering of debris stretching hundreds of meters away. These are seen in green in the image below, while the blue dots represent disturbed lunar soil.

Image shows the crash site for India's Vikram lunar lander, with debris denoted in green and disturbed soil in blue
Image shows the crash site for India's Vikram lunar lander, with debris denoted in green and disturbed soil in blue

While the Vikram module didn’t survive the landing attempt, India’s Chandrayaan-2 continues to orbit the Moon carrying out valuable science. This includes using its eight scientific instruments to study the Moon’s topography, chemical composition and mineral distribution, as well as snapping ultra-sharp images of the surface.

Source: NASA

5 comments
paul314
That's quite a bit worse than a hard landing. Back of the envelope says if the probe fell without braking from 2 km it would be moving at about 300 km/h on impact, which would certainly be enough to rupture fuel tanks.
James Watt
If NASA has the capability for photos of the surface this sharp, couldn't they publish pictures of the Apollo landing sites finally disproving the Hollywood studio conspiracy theories about the moon landings?
paul314
@James Watt I'm sure that if they did, all the conspiracy theorists would admit they were wrong and apologize for having wasted everyone's time. None of them would invent new conspiracy theories saying the new pictures were faked, or were the result of secret space missions to put simulated moon-landing remnants at the purported landing spots. Or perhaps the result of alien tampering. Oh, wait.
Douglas Rogers
The Apollo astronauts placed one or more corner reflectors on the Moon which have been part of many diverse experiments over the years.
Graeme S
Mankind, not content with polluting our own planet, now we are polluting our nearest neighbor ... will we ever learn?