NASA finds debris of Chandrayaan 2’s Vikram lander on Moon

Washington: NASA’s Moon-orbiting spacecraft has found the debris of Chandrayaan 2’s lander Vikram on the surface of the Moon, the US space agency confirmed on Tuesday, nearly three months after India’s ambitious mission made a hard landing near the uncharted lunar south pole.

On 7 September, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) attempted a soft landing of Vikram on the Moon. However, ISRO lost contact with Vikram shortly before the scheduled touchdown.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera team released the first mosaic, acquired on 17 September, of the site on 26 September.

Indian engineer Shanmuga Subramanian contacted NASA’s project after which, the US space agency confirmed the identification of debris by comparing before and after images.

“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,” NASA said in a statement.

The two subsequent image sequences were acquired on 14 and 15 October, and on 11 November, NASA said.

The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site (70.8810 degrees South, 22.7840 degrees East) and associated debris field.

According to NASA, the November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 metre) and lighting conditions (72 degrees incidence angle).

“The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic,” NASA said in a statement.

The November mosaic shows best the impact crater, ray and extensive debris field, NASA said, adding that the three largest pieces of debris are each about 2×2 pixels and cast a one-pixel shadow.

Ever since ISRO lost contact with Vikram, NASA has made several attempts to locate the Chandrayaan-2 lander with the help of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The LRO flew over Vikram’s landing site once on 17 September and next on 14 October.

The ambitious Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon was launched in July. If the spacecraft had reached the surface in one piece on 7 September, India would have been only the fourth country to successfully put a lander on the Moon.