India claims to have seen the country's Vikram lunar lander on the surface of the lunar days after the spacecraft was probably crashed during a landing attempt. India has still not made contact with the lander, who was silent for a few moments before the planned landing, but Indian officials hope that the lander is still functioning.
"We are trying to make contact", Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the president of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) who oversees the lander, told Asian News International (ANI). "It will be communicated soon."
The Vikram lander is an important part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission of India, which is aimed at the further study of the moon's south pole. The lander, who was carrying a robber named Pragyan, was supposed to perform the first soft landing on the moon for India by landing in the South Pole. If it had been successful, India would have become the fourth nation in the world to have a vehicle intact on the lunar surface.
But the Vikram landing did not go as planned last week. On Friday afternoon, September 6, the lander used his engine on board to slowly lower himself to the ground. When the spacecraft was only 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) above the surface, India suddenly lost communication with the vehicle. A graph of the trajectory of the spacecraft, shown during a live stream of the landing, revealed that the lander was slightly off his planned course just before landing.
Now India at least knows where the Vikram lander is. The lander traveled to the moon with another spaceship, an orbiter that is still circulating above the surface of the moon. The orbiter successfully saw the Vikram lander from above and made a thermal image of the vehicle, according to ANI's interview with Sivan.
Sivan did not make clear the state of the spacecraft, and claimed that it was premature to say anything. In the meantime, there have been few official updates from ISRO. After the landing, the organization posted a short message on its website, which emphasized the technical complexity of the Chandrayaan-2 mission and noted that the lander usually worked as expected. "All Lander's systems and sensors have been functioning well up to now and have proven many new technologies such as variable thrust drive technology used in the Lander," ISRO wrote on its website.
The organization also noted that the lunar orbit still works as planned and can be operational up to seven years around the moon, instead of one year as planned. In general, ISRO claims that between 90 and 95 percent of the Chandrayaan-2 mission has been accomplished, despite the loss of communication with Vikram and Pragyan.