Chandrayaan-2: Vikram had hard landing, says NASA

Chandrayaan-2: Vikram had hard landing, says NASA

NASA on Friday released high-resolution images captured by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) during its flyby of the lunar region where India's ambitious Chandrayaan 2 mission attempted a soft landing

A wide view of a series of Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera's narrow angle camera images collected on Sept. 17 showing the area of the targeted Vikram landing site. (Photo: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Confirming that the Chandrayaan-2 Lander, Vikram had a ‘hard-landing,’ the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released images of the landing site. However, it could not determine Vikram’s precise landing location on the lunar surface.

In an official statement, the US space agency said: “Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands is yet to be determined.” 

The landing site was captured by the onboard cameras of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) when it last passed over the site on September 17. 

 


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. Photo/NASA

The captured image showed the lunar surface to an extent of about 150 kms, but nothing could be clearly seen as the sun had already begun to set and shadows loomed large. The lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days, was almost passed and the lunar night was about to begin. 

Attempting to soft-land Vikram in the early hours of September 7, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had lost communication link with the Lander barely 350 metres away from an unprecedented soft touchdown. 

Ever since that unfortunate twist in the otherwise smooth trajectory, Isro had tried several times to re-establish the link through its Orbiter. It was then that the Isro mission time decided to approach NASA to understand whether its LRO can provide some answers.


A wide view of a series of Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera's narrow-angle camera images collected on
Sept. 17 showing the area of the targeted Vikram landing site. Photo/NASA

Chandrayaan’s own Orbiter had first spotted the Lander, confirming that it had a hard-landing, probably with a tilt. However, it could not get further details as the images taken from a orbital altitude of 100 kms were of a low resolution. 

But NASA’s LRO is scheduled to make another attempt to capture the place once the lunar night passes. The American space agency said, “It is possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow. The lighting will be favourable when LRO passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander.”

Orbiting the Moon since September 2009, the LRO is equipped with a 50-cm high resolution camera. It is positioned in an orbit of 20 km x 165 km. Chandrayaan-2’s Orbiter has a 30-cm resolution camera onboard, and is expected to recapture the landing site several times during its anticipated seven-year life.

Located between two craters about 70° south of the lunar equator and about 600 km from its shadowy south pole, Vikram’s landing site is a tricky spot to capture as it is on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters.

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