NASA has found no evidence of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander in the images captured during a latest flyby of its Moon orbiter of the lunar region where India's ambitious mission attempted a soft landing, the US space agency said.
On September 7, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) attempted a soft landing of Vikram on the uncharted lunar south pole, before losing communication with the lander.
"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 PTI in an exclusive email interaction.
Petro said that the camera team carefully examined the images 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.
This approach, he said, is used for finding new meteorite impacts on the Moon that also helped locate the recent Beresheet lander.
"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.
During its previous flyby, the LRO passed over the landing site on September 17 and acquired a set of high-resolution images of the area.
The LRO team had not been able to locate or image the lander even then.
Vikram attempted landing on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters before losing communication with ISRO.