Chandrayaan 2: Vikram lander’s debris found on moon’s surface, says NASA

Rodiano Bonacci
Dicembre 3, 2019

A NASA satellite orbiting the Moon has found India's Vikram lander which crashed on the lunar surface in September, the U.S. space agency has said. Later, confirming news to the world, Nasa tweeted: "The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander has been found by our NasaMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter".

The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole; unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown (September 7 in India, September 6 in the United States). Newly released images show the impact crater itself, dark ejecta rays and light lines marking the debris field.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted debris, marked in green, and soil disturbance, marked in blue, caused by the hard impact of India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on September 6, 2019.

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. Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. "After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images", NASA stated. This is the first time a publicly-released image has identified the lander's impact site and debris field.

"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.

Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on October 14 and 15, and then on November 11. The debris, first located by Shanmuga, is about 750 metre northwest of the crash site. The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2x2 pixels and cast a one-pixel shadow.

Lighting conditions had made it hard to spot the subtle changes on the moon's surface that showed where the lander broke apart on impact. Imaging experts have spotted extensive evidence of the crash, including both debris from the craft and places where the collision seems to have stirred up the moon's regolith.

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