NASA spacecraft finds crash location of Indian moon lander

A NASA spaceship orbit around the moon saw the crash site of the ill-fated lunar lander of India, Vikram, who hit the surface of the moon during a landing attempt in September. Images taken by the spacecraft confirm that the lander has met an explosive end, making the lander's impact site and the surrounding debris visible through the accident.

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Vikram, part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission to India, was the first Indian spacecraft that landed softly on the lunar surface. India had previously placed a vehicle on the moon, but that spacecraft deliberately crashed into the ground, kicking up litter and learning more about the types of materials lurking on the moon. With Vikram, India hoped to place a spaceship intact on the moon, to study the lunar environment in more detail. Vikram even had a robber with him who had to travel 500 meters and find out more about the composition of the surface.

But during the planned landing of Vikram on September 6, officials from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lost contact with the vehicle when it was about 2.1 miles (2.1 kilometers) above the lunar surface. It was unclear what exactly happened to the lander for a while. In the days following the landing, some ISRO officials claimed that they had found the spacecraft on the lunar surface and were still trying to make contact with it. But last week, ISRO admitted that Vikram had a "hard" landing after the vehicle had trouble braking while descending to the surface.


The subtle difference between the pictures before and after of the landing site
Image: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Now researchers have provided visual confirmation of this hard impact, thanks to NASA & # 39; s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which orbits around the moon since 2009. A team of scientists operating the camera on the orbiter first took photos of the landing site on September 17 and released them to the public. They received a tip of possible debris in the photos and confirmed that it was from Vikram. The place where Vikram struck, however, was not well lit, so the team again took photos of the site in October and November to get a better picture. Eventually they found the place and captured a more detailed picture of the site and the rubble field.

Although these images offer some closure with Vikram, the Chandrayaan-2 mission in India is not a complete loss. The Vikram lander traveled with another spaceship to the moon – one designed to study the lunar surface from above. That vehicle successfully entered the orbit of the moon in August and is still circling above its head, collecting data about the moon and decoding what is on the underlying surface.

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