Still no trace of missing Indian moon lander


U.S. space agency Nasa has released images of the south pole region of Moon where Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander had made a "hardlanding" in the wee hours of September 7.

The Vikram lunar lander should have touched down somewhere inside the blue circle in this image captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on September 17, 2019.

After the lander's mission life of 14 days ceased the temperature during the lunar night was estimated to drop to less than minus 200 degrees Celsius which Vikram would not be able to sustain. The site was about 600 km from the south pole in a relatively ancient terrain, according to the USA space agency.

The Chandrayaan-2 is the second lunar exploration mission developed by the ISRO, and consisted of both the Vikram lander and the Pragyan lunar rover, which would have been deployed on the surface.

Vikram was scheduled to touch down on 7 September - India's first attempt at a soft landing on the moon.

"A NASA statement titled 'Obscured in the lunar highlands?' said, "[So] far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander.

The images were taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, however, owing to dusk the lander could not be located. Sivan added that once the committees submit their report, the space agency will work on a plan.

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Despite the orbiter's high-resolution images, NASA stated that since it was dusk when the image was captured, large shadows prevented a clear image of the terrain, adding that "it was possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow".

In the days and weeks that followed, ISRO has been trying to determine the condition of the lander, and claims to have spotted it using its own lunar orbiter.

"A national level committee has been formed to find out what went wrong with the lander".

The NASA camera also captured images of Israel's Lander Beresheet which also failed at its attempt to land on the moon in April.

The module was scheduled to land on September 6 in the ISRO's first attempt at a moon soft landing. Isro has refused to comment on Nasa images. Data immediately before losing contact suggests that Vikram was descending at high speed, making it very hard to decipher if the lander is intact. This would help strengthen the future space missions. The lunar day started on September 7 - the day chosen by India to attempt a touchdown on the moon.

The space agency said the lighting would be favourable again when its LRO would pass over the site in October.