NASA satellite finds crashed Indian Moon lander AFP

James Marshall
December 3, 2019

The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was aiming for a smooth plain, some 600 kilometers from the south pole.

In September, India attempted to become only the fourth country to soft-land on the moon, but the Indian Space Research Organization lost touch with Vikram as it neared the lunar surface.

NASA released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft's impact (September 6 in India and September 7 in the US) and associated debris field, with parts scattered over nearly two dozen locations spanning several kilometers. Blue dots locate disturbed soil, likely where small bits of the spacecraft churned up the regolith (moon soil). "Green dots indicate spacecraft debris".

Today (Dec. 2), the team that runs the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument released images taken on November 11 that show how the spacecraft has changed the surface of the moon. But in that image, someone named Shanmuga Subramanian spotted one extraordinarily bright pixel and reached out to the LROC team, according to a NASA statement released today.

"Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris". The debris was confirmed by comparing before and after images of the site, NASA said. "See the first mosaic of the impact site".

"Vikram", named after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Programme, was created to execute a soft-landing on the lunar surface, and to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 earth days. The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site and associated debris field. "The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle)", it said. The debris, first located by Shanmuga, is about 750 metre northwest of the crash site. The images also showed the associated debris field.

That tipoff, plus images with better lighting and resolution taken in mid-October and on November 11, gave LROC specialists the details they needed to map the full scope of the surface changes caused by the hard landing.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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