India locates lander lost on final approach to moon

Updated September 08, 2019

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This screen grab taken from a live webcast by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 6, shows Vikram Lander before it was supposed to land on the Moon. — AFP
This screen grab taken from a live webcast by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 6, shows Vikram Lander before it was supposed to land on the Moon. — AFP

The lander module from India's moon mission was located on the lunar surface on Sunday, one day after it lost contact with the space station, and efforts are underway to try to establish contact with it, the head of the nation's space agency said.

The Press Trust of India news agency cited Indian Space and Research Organisation chairman K. Sivan as saying cameras from the moon mission's orbiter had located the lander. “It must have been a hard landing,” PTI quoted Sivan as saying.

ISRO officials could not be reached for comment.

According to Times of India, the lander was designed to function for one lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days, and with the "right orientation" it can still generate power and recharge batteries with solar panels.

"But it looks less and less probable, progressively," said one official associated with the mission who wished to remain anonymous.

Another top official explained that since it may not have landed on its four legs, the lander may not have the "right orientation" to recharge batteries and may not be able to reestablish a link.

The space agency said it lost touch with the Vikram lunar lander on Saturday as it made its final approach to the moon's south pole to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

A successful landing would have made India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third to operate a robotic rover there.

The space agency said on Saturday that the lander's descent was normal until 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the lunar surface.

The roughly $140 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

The latest mission lifted off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan space centre in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

After its launch, Chandrayaan-2 spent several weeks making its way toward the moon, ultimately entering lunar orbit on August 20.

The Vikram lander separated from the mission's orbiter on September 2 and began a series of braking manoeuvres to lower its orbit and ready itself for landing.

Only three nations the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have landed a spacecraft on the moon.