NASA Finally Finds Vikram Lander Wreckage

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An Amateur Astronomer Helps NASA Locate the Ill-Fated Vikram Lander

Ever since the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched Chandrayaan 2 back in July, the world of space geeks (we know who we are) has been paying attention. Chandrayaan 2 held a lot of promise for India and the scientific community worldwide. Indeed, India designed, built, and launched the craft on a shoestring budget and in relatively little time. Had the mission succeeded, India would have joined only the United States, Russia, and China in landing a spacecraft on the moon. Instead, the final part of the mission ended in disaster. At just 2.1 kilometers above the lunar surface, the flight path deviated. ISRO officials lost contact with the Vikram lander, though they claimed to know where it was. 

For months after the September 6th crash, ISRO officials stuck to the same story. They claimed to know Vikram’s location, and would only comment that they lost contact and were investigating. Then last week they admitted that the lander crashed, as well as their theories behind the cause of the crash. However, ISRO officials still didn’t reveal the precise location of the lander. 

Other Eyes

For its part, NASA’s been looking. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the reported crash site three times, but they couldn’t find any discernible sign of Vikram. The first flyby happened on September 17th, just eleven days after the crash. The site was obscured by shadows that day, so researchers weren’t too surprised that they didn’t see the craft. On a second flyby in mid-October and the most recent one on November 11th, however, they still couldn’t see any sign of it. 

Of course, researchers working on the LRO project combed over the data. But so did amateur astronomers all over the world. One such amateur, Shanmuga Subramanian, found an irregularly bright pixel and reported it to LRO Camera team (LROC). According to a NASA statement released yesterday, the tip, along with extensive analysis leads them to believe they know where Vikram crashed.

Check out the Picture:

Vikram lander crash site

Vikram lander crash site

Chandrayann 2 Still Working

Despite the Vikram lander crash, most people still consider the Chandrayaan 2 mission to be a success on several levels. For one thing, like NASA’s LRO, the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter is still orbiting the Moon and collecting valuable scientific data. Furthermore, the fact that India was able to do it so quickly for so little money is inspiring for other developing nations who want to get into space. 

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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