NASA shares images of Chandrayaan 2 landing site, says Vikram had hard landing
The lander of Chandrayaan-2 had a “hard landing” earlier this month before it lost contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has said.
The American space agency released high-resolution images captured by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) during its flyby of the lunar region where Vikram lander attempted a soft landing near the moon’s uncharted area on September 7.
The lander was just 2.1 km away from making history by being the world’s first space mission to soft-land near the lunar south pole.
“Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands has yet to be determined,” Nasa said on its website.
The US agency said the site was located about 600 kilometres from the south pole in a relatively ancient terrain.
The LRO, Nasa said, passed over the landing site on September 17 and that “so far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander”.
“It was dusk when the landing area was imaged and thus large shadows covered much of the terrain; it is possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow. The lighting will be favorable when LRO passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander,” it added.
The lander of the Chandrayaan-2 moon mission was attempting a “soft,” or controlled, landing near the south pole of the moon where scientists believe there could be water ice.
It had begun its powered descent at 1.38am, and reduced its velocity from 1,640 metres per second to 140 metres per second in 10 minutes. In the last few minutes, when the lander was decreasing its altitude to the lunar surface, communications snapped.
The last 15 minutes of the mission, in which the lander attempts to guide itself with the help of its own propulsion system, had been described by Isro chief K Sivan as “15 minutes of terror”.
Originally scheduled for July 15, Chandrayaan-2’s launch was aborted due to a technical snag at the eleventh hour before take-off.
India’s second lunar mission was launched from Sriharikota onboard the GSLV Mk III on July 22 after scientists fixed the problem in about a week.