NASA Still Can’t Find India’s Vikram Lander

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Flew By Again, But There’s Still No Sign of India’s Vikram Lander.

Around six weeks ago India attempted to become the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. Unfortunately, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lost contact with their lander just before the critical moment. All attempts to re-establish contact thus far have failed. However, Chandrayaan-2 the parent mission of India’s Vikram lander is still operational. Its lunar orbiter is still gathering and transmitting data.

Not long after the landing failure, NASA tried to spot the lander from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Unfortunately, the LRO couldn’t see any sign of it. Officials last month said they believed it was obscured by shadows at the time the LRO passed overhead. Officials at NASA and hoped that a second LRO flyby of the landing sight might provide positive confirmation of the craft’s location. Unfortunately, based on the data they have from the ISRO, they’ve still not been able to locate it so far. 

Searching for Vikram?

Indian officials said soon after the crash that they’d spotted the lander on their own. But they haven’t been specific about the details.

The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is still very much on-mission, however. It continues its orbit around the moon, gathering data with a multitude of instruments. If it’s seen the Vikram, though, the ISRO is not releasing those details.

Meanwhile, the LRO passes by the supposed landing site at least once per month, so there’s a chance NASA could see the lander next month. According to Noah Petro, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist, “I suspect, based on what they’ve said, that it could be just that we’re not looking at the right place or we just can’t see it because of the illumination. Until we know more details about where it is, it’s going to be very hard for us to find it.” However, even if India isn’t exactly forthcoming with location details, that illumination situation Petro referenced should be much better on next month’s flyby. That means that if the lander is where the ISRO says it is, there’s a better chance the LRO will see it.

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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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