A NASA satellite orbiting the Moon passed over the site where the Indian probe Vikram should have made touchdown earlier this month. However, it didn’t see the missing moon lander, the US space agency said.
The agency made the announcement after NASA released photographs taken on 17th September by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). They were of the plains located about 370 miles (600 kilometres) from the Moon’s south pole. The Vikram aimed to land there.
“So far the… team has not been able to locate or image the lander,” NASA said.
“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 space agency added. The space agency also said the LRO will pass over the site again in October when the light will be better.
Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped with its Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) mission to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful moon landing, and the first on the lunar south pole.
The main spacecraft, which remains in orbit around the Moon, dropped the unmanned lander Vikram for a descent that would take five days, but the probe went silent just 2.1 kilometres above the surface.
Vikram was travelling at a horizontal speed of 157 feet (48 meters) per second and descending 197 feet per second, just over half a mile from the landing point. US-based organization The Planetary Society said this.
Days after the failed landing, the Indian Space Research Organisation said it located the missing moon lander. However, it hadn’t been able to establish communication. It has been trying to contact Vikram since.
However, NASA in its statement said: “Vikram had a hard landing” — aviation jargon which means it crashed.