Chandrayaan 2: Vikram out of NASA field of view as LRO fails to spot the lander during 17 Sept fly-by

The agency has taken its time to process, validate, analyse and review the series of images captured by the LROC.


A NASA satellite currently orbiting the Moon has reportedly failed to spot the Vikram lander near the South Polar region. This is where things went quiet after the lander had lost contact with Earth, a mere 2.1 kilometres from the Moon's surface. Towards the end of the descent on 7 September, the lander, housing the Pragyan rover inside it, lost communication with ISRO and NASA minutes before its planned touch-down and crashed near its landing site.

Ten days later, NASA made an attempt to capture a photograph of the lander from an overhead fly-by. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Camera instrument (LROC) imaged the landing site of the lander as planned, according to a report by Aviation Week. However, "long shadows in the area" were thought to be obscuring the still-silent lunar lander.

Chandrayaan 2: Vikram out of NASA field of view as LRO fails to spot the lander during 17 Sept fly-by

An illustration of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter in the moon's orbit. Image: ISRO

NASA has admitted that the lander may not have been in the 'field of view' of the camera on-board its orbiter. The agency took its time processing, validating, analysing and reviewing the series of images captured by its LROC. The LRO's deputy project scientist John Keller shared a statement confirming that the orbiter's camera captured the images, according to CNET.

"LRO flew over the area of the Vikram landing site on 17 September when the local lunar time was near dusk; large shadows covered much of the area... It [the lander] may be in the shadow...," Joshua Handal, public affairs officer, in NASA's Planetary science division told Hindustan Times in an email. "The LROC team will analyse these new images and compare them to previous images to see if the lander is visible (it may be in shadow or outside the imaged area)."

An illustration of Chandrayaan 2 orbiter lander rover composite orbiting the Moon. Image courtesy: ISRO

An illustration of Chandrayaan 2 orbiter lander rover composite orbiting the Moon. Image courtesy: ISRO

On 8 September, ISRO said the lander was spotted on the lunar surface by camera on-board of the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter. Since then, there has been a lot of uncertainty about exactly where the Vikram landed has ended up, and if it crashed or landed more or less intact. The next hope of catching a glimpse of the lander will be on 14 October.

“It will be difficult to find the lander during the current flyover as the angle of the Sun will be low. And, if the lander is close to any relief feature, then the lander will get hidden in its shadow. The LRO will have better chances of getting a good image of the lander during its next flyover,” said Jatan Mehta, a former science officer with TeamIndus, a Bengaluru-based private company that aims to send a lander-rover to the Moon.

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