Has NASA Found India's Ill-Fated Moon Lander Yet?

Back in September 6, India’s Vikram lander from the Chandrayaan 2 mission was supposed to set down on the lunar surface and start on its mission of analyzing and collecting samples on its designed spot on the Moon for two weeks. However, an unknown malfunction caused the lander to lose contact with ground control on Earth, after which the lander itself crashed on the lunar surface.

Ever since, the lander has been on the Moon. A few weeks ago, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) reported that they may have found the lander, and its engineers are now trying their best to recover communications with it. However, the agency hasn’t provided any more details ever since.

And now, NASA has revealed that its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has failed to locate the Indian lander after passing over its targeted landing site for the second time.

"I suspect, based on what they've said, that it could be just that we're not looking at the right place or we just can't see it because of the illumination," Noah Petro, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist, said.  "Until we know more details about where it is, it's going to be very hard for us to find it."

"We would like to see what happened because we want to know what happened. Certainly there's something to be learned about what happens when a spacecraft interacts with the surface of the moon,” Petro added.

Per Petro, the LRO has passed by the supposed impact site of the Vikram lander twice now due to its intended orbit. However, it hasn’t spotted the lander in either of those times. Nevertheless, Petro confirmed that there’s still so much to see because “every opportunity we have to study the moon and look at the moon is a wonderful, awesome thing."

Despite the lander’s absence, however, the Chandrayaan mission 2 is still ongoing, using an orbiting spacecraft to gather data. Per ISRO, the spacecraft has eight specialized instruments that it uses to observe the Moon.

"Chandrayaan 2 is a workhorse. It's great to have company in lunar orbit."

moon-1527501_960_720 A photo of Earth's moon. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)