Vikram was scheduled to land on September 7 at the Lunar South Pole more than a month after it took off. The lander’s descent was normal until it was 2.1km (1.3 miles) from the lunar surface when it veered from the planned path and communications with the lander were lost.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – India’s equivalent of NASA – is still trying to find why it lost contact with the lander.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the landing site on September 17 and took images from the area, but the team has not yet been able to locate or obtain an image of the lander, NASA said in a statement released on Thursday.
“It was dusk when the landing area was imaged and thus large shadows covered much of the terrain, it is possible that the lander is hiding in a shadow,” the statement read.
More images are expected to be taken in October.
Our @LRO_NASA mission imaged the targeted landing site of India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram. The images were taken at dusk, and the team was not able to locate the lander. More images will be taken in October during a flyby in favorable lighting. More: https://t.co/1bMVGRKslp pic.twitter.com/kqTp3GkwuM
— NASA (@NASA) September 26, 2019
After Vikram lost contact, scientists only had until September 21 to establish communications with the lander before the area entered into a lunar night, according to local reports.
Despite the hard landing, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said a plan was being worked out for a moon mission in the future.
“We are working out a detailed future plan,” he said on Thursday.
“A national-level committee has been formed to find out what went wrong with the lander. Once the committee submits its report, we will work on what to do in future,” he added.
Vikram aimed to conduct “detailed topographical studies, [and] comprehensive mineralogical analyses … such as the presence of water molecules on the moon”.
This was the third time an attempt was made to land the spacecraft on the moon this year.
In January, China made an historic soft landing on the “dark side” of the moon in the South Pole-Aitken Basin area. It was the first spacecraft in history to reach this area. Since then its rover and lander have been operating in that area.
Israel also sent a spacecraft in April, but the landing was problematic and communications were lost when it was about 149 meters (489 feet) above the moon’s surface. The attempt ended in a hard landing.