Washington: ‘Vikram’ had a ‘hard landing’, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said Friday, as it released high-resolution images captured by its reconnaissance orbiter of the Moon’s unchartered south pole where the ‘Chandrayaan 2’ lander attempted to soft-land during the ambitious mission three weeks ago.
The module had attempted a soft landing on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between ‘Simpelius N’ and ‘Manzinus C’ craters before losing communication with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), September 7. The site was about 600 km from the South Pole of the moon in a relatively ancient terrain, according to the US space agency.
“Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands has yet to be determined,” NASA said.
“The scene was captured from a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Quickmap fly-around of the targeted landing site image width is about 150 kilometres across the centre,” the space agency added.
‘Vikram’ was scheduled to touch down, September 7. This event was India’s first attempt to soft land on the Moon and could have propelled it into a select club of countries to have landed on the lunar surface.
After ‘Vikram’ lost contact with ground stations, just 2.1 km above the touchdown site, the possibility of establishing contact with the lander had a deadline of September 21, because after that the region entered into a lunar night. However, in the recent past, ISRO chairman K Sivan has said that any hope of establishing contact with ‘Vikram’ has completely vanished.
The NASA orbiter passed over the Vikram landing site September 17 and acquired a set of high-resolution images of the area; so far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander.
“LROC will next fly over the landing site October 14 when light conditions will be more favourable,” John Keller, Deputy Project Scientist Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission, Goddard Space Flight Centre, told this agency via email.
“It was dusk when the landing area was imaged and thus large shadows covered much of the terrain; it is possible that the ‘Vikram’ is hiding in a shadow. The lighting will be favourable when LROC passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander,” NASA said.