India's Vikram lunar lander, which crashed on its final approach to the Moon's surface in September, has been found thanks in part to the sleuthing efforts of an amateur space enthusiast.
The US space agency released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) showed the site of the spacecraft's impact.
The largest chunks of debris are a pair of green dots, each around 2x2 pixels in size, which cast a one-pixel shadow on the moon's surface, NASA added. Despite the failed soft-landing, getting as close to the surface as Vikram did was an wonderful achievement, the agency said. India's space agency said it spotted the lander soon after, via the orbiter component of the mission, but the agency has not released those images, and NASA's long-standing Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter hadn't had the same luck.More news: Mom Lisa Snyder charged with murder of kids found hanging in basement
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Today (Dec. 2), the team that runs the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument released images taken on November 11 that show how the spacecraft has changed the surface of the moon. After getting the tip from him, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images of the site where Vikram crash-landed.
NASA further informed that the debris was first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site. Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on October 14 and 15, and November 11.
An image combining before and after photographs of the Vikram impact site highlights the dark inner and light outer materials splaying out from the impact. Changes to the surface are subtle and are more easily seen in these images than earlier ones.
A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field, with parts scattered over nearly two dozen locations spanning several kilometres. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 metre) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle).