NASA Finds India’s Vikram Moon Lander Crash Site, With Amateur’s Help


NASA has found pieces of Vikram, a small spacecraft that India attempted to land on the moon in September. They did it with the help of an engineer from India who scoured the lunar surface in his spare time.

Vikram was part of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon, which launched in July. If the spacecraft had reached the surface in one piece on Sept. 7, India would have been only the fourth country to successfully put a lander on the moon. But less than two miles above the surface, Vikram veered from the planned descent trajectory and fell out of radio contact.

India’s space agency said the next day that it had located the lander. But it never published any images of the hard landing site taken by the mission’s accompanying orbiter, which remains in operation and is carrying out a scientific mission that will last for years.

A NASA spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, has passed over the mission’s intended landing site, on a high plain near the south pole, several times since September. But initial analyses of the images did not reveal an obvious impact scar comparable to the Beresheet lander launched by Israel this year, which crashed in April. NASA scientists noted that the spacecraft might have been hidden in the shadows.

The pieces of debris were not much bigger than the minimum of what the camera could make out. The resolution of the camera was about 1.3 meters per pixel; the three largest pieces of debris were about two pixels by two pixels in size and cast a one-pixel shadow, NASA said.


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