A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite orbiting the Moon has found India’s Vikram lander which crashed on the lunar surface in September 2019, the US space agency has said on December 3rd, 2019. The agency also lauded a Chennai-based mechanical engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian who helped it trace the debris by spending hours comparing before and after images of the landing site.
The NASA on December 3rd, 2019 released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact (September 6 in India and September 7 in the US).
In a statement, NASA said, “The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole; unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown. Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.”
The space agency added, “The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team released the first mosaic (acquired September 17) of the site on September 26 and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram. Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images. When the images for the first mosaic were acquired the impact point was poorly illuminated and thus not easily identifiable.”
Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on October 14 and 15, and November 11. The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle), the US space agency has said.
The NASA mentioned that the debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site. The November mosaic shows best the impact crater, ray and extensive debris field. The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2×2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow.
In a major setback for the country, lander Vikram of Chandrayaan 2 lost contact minutes before it was due to touchdown the south pole of moon’s surface on September 7th, 2019. If the landing would have been completed, India would have become the fourth country after the USA, Russia and China to soft-land on the moon.
India’s ambitious Chandrayaan 2 started its journey on July 22nd, 2019 launching from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on board heavy-lift rocket GSLV Mark 3.
The ISRO is now believed to be planning for its next lunar mission, Chandrayaan 3. According to media reports, the space agency has started working on Chandrayaan 3 with a deadline of November 2020.
Photo credit: @NASA