India Locates Lost Lunar Lander but Struggles to Reestablish Contact
by Meilan Solly Smithsonian.com
A thermal image captured by India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter has revealed the location of a lunar lander that went offline minutes before its expected touchdown, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman K. Sivan said Sunday.
As the agency director explained to Asian News International, the orbiter’s cameras spotted Vikram—a robotic lander that lost contact with ISRO’s Bengaluru ground station as it was descending to the moon around 2 a.m. Saturday local time—on a yet-to-be identified section of the moon’s surface. Although attempts to establish contact with the lander and assess damage are currently under way, an anonymous senior official with the mission tells Press Trust of India (PTI) the likelihood of reestablishing a connection will become “less and less probable” as time passes. According to Sivan, the ISRO will continue to make communication attempts for 14 days.
If Vikram had made a soft landing as planned, India would have become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface and the third to launch a robotic lunar rover. (Previously, the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have all successfully landed spacecraft on the lunar surface.) The mission would have been the first lunar landing in the south pole region of the moon.