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SPACE.com Columnist Leonard David

NASA Moon Orbiter Fails to Spot India's Lunar Lander: Report

On Sept. 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter successfully released its Vikram lander, as seen in this illustrated depiction. But Vikram's landing attempt on Sept. 6 did not go as planned; mission control lost contact with Vikram just before touchdown, and the lander has been silent ever since.
On Sept. 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter successfully released its Vikram lander, as seen in this illustrated depiction. But Vikram's landing attempt on Sept. 6 did not go as planned; mission control lost contact with Vikram just before touchdown, and the lander has been silent ever since.
(Image: © India Space Research Organisation)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has reportedly failed to spot India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander, which apparently crashed during its Sept. 6 touchdown attempt.

LRO’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera instrument, or LROC, imaged the intended south pole touchdown site for the lander, which is called Vikram, as planned yesterday (Sept. 17), Aviation Week's Mark Carreau reported. But "long shadows in the area may be obscuring the silent lunar explorer," Carreau wrote.

“It was near dusk as the region prepares to transition from a two-week lunar day to an equally long lunar night, so shadows covered much of the region, and Vikram may not be in the LROC’s field of view," Carreau wrote, citing a NASA statement. (The Aviation Week article is behind a paywall.)

India’s targeted site for Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander. Photo taken of area prior to landing attempt by NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC camera.

India’s targeted site for Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram moon lander. This photo was taken by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC camera prior to Vikram's landing attempt.  (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

LROC lead investigator Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University, provided the following statement to Inside Outer Space: "Per NASA policy, all LRO data are publicly available. NASA will share any before and after flyover imagery of the area around the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander landing site to support analysis by the Indian Space Research Organization."

The statement also noted that, during the Sept. 17 LRO flyover of the area, local lunar time was near dusk, "leading to poor lighting and a challenging imaging environment."

Leonard David is author of the recently released book, "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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