Nasa satellite locates Isro's Vikram lander on Moon's surface
03 December 2019
A Nasa satellite orbiting the Moon has found India’s Vikram lander which crashed on the lunar surface in September, the US space agency has said.
Nasa released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact and associated debris field, with parts scattered over almost two dozen locations spanning several kilometers.
The image released by Nasa showed the Vikram Lander impact point and associated debris field.
The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole; unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown (7 September in India, 6 September in the United States).
Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.
Nasa said the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired 17 September) of the site on 26 September and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram. Nasa’s Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. 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. Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on 14 and 15 October and 11 November. The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° 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 (1.3 meter pixels, 84° incidence angle). The November mosaic shows best the impact crater, ray and extensive debris field. The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2x2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow.
This before and after image ratio highlights changes to the surface; the impact point is near center of the image and stands out due the dark rays and bright outer halo. Note the dark streak and debris about 100 meters to the SSE of the impact point. Diagonal straight lines are uncorrected background artifacts.
India’ Chandrayaan-2 mission blasted off in July, to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar south pole.
But the unmanned lander Vikram failed in its last lap of for five-day descent and went silent just 2.1 km above the surface.