No evidence of Chandrayaan-2 lander has been found in the latest pictures captured by NASA during the latest flyby of its moon orbiter of the lunar region where the lander “Vikram” made a historic landing attempt on September 7, the US space agency has said, adding that the lander may be hidden in shadows. The Chandryaan-2 lander had lost contact with the ground station when it was trying to soft land on the lunar surface.
“The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imaged the area of the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram landing site on October 14 but did not observe any evidence of the lander,” Noah Edward Petro, the Project Scientist for the LRO mission, told news agency PTI.
India had expected to make space history with the Rs. 1,000-crore Chandrayaan 2 mission. A successful soft landing on the moon’s surface would have made India only the fourth country – after the United States, Russia and China – to achieve the feat. It would also have made India the first country to complete a soft landing near the South Pole on its first attempt.
Mr Petro said that the camera team carefully examined the images captured during the latest flyby of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and employed the change detection technique using a ratio of an image from prior to the landing attempt to the one acquired on October 14.
“It is possible that Vikram is located in a shadow or outside of the search area. Because of the low latitude, approximately 70 degrees south, the area is never completely free of shadows,” John Keller, Deputy Project Scientist LRO Mission, told PTI.
Last month, NASA had said that Chandrayaan 2 lander had a “hard landing” when it lost contact with the ground station.
“The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing Sept. 7 (Sept. 6 in the United States), on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters. Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands has yet to be determined,” NASA had said in a statement.
The US space agency had also released pictures of the targeted landing site, labeling the craters.
The pictures were captured by NASA’s moon orbiter during its flyby on September 17. The images were taken at dusk, and the team was not able to locate the lander.
The moon orbiter again tried to capture the images during its flyby in October under better lighting conditions. The LRO will next fly around the region on November 10 and it will be another good opportunity with favourable lighting conditions for pictures, Noah Petro told news agency IANS.