Science 3 min read

India Says It Has Located Vikram, its Lost Lunar Lander

Artist depiction of the the Chandrayaan 2 lunar mission from India | Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Artist depiction of the the Chandrayaan 2 lunar mission from India | Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A day after losing contact with its moon-bound lunar lander, India reported that it had detected the lander on the moon’s surface.

After a failed first attempt, India finally launched the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission back in July. The robotic spacecraft was supposed to travel through space for six weeks before attempting to land on the moon’s surface this September.

At the end of the relatively successful space tour, it was finally time for the moon landing mission. A 3,200-pound lander called Vikram separated from the orbiter and made its way toward the moon’s surface.

A successful descent would make India the fourth country to achieve such a feat, behind the United States, Russia, and China. But something went wrong.

15 Minutes of Terror

On Saturday, before the anticipated lunar landing, space enthusiasts had gathered around the country for a viewing party. Also, journalists camped in near-by tents to cover the event.

The lander had only about 15 minutes to slow from a 2,000 miles per hour descent to a starting altitude of 20 miles. It’s no wonder that the director of the Indian Space Research Organization, Dr. K. Sivan described the computer-programmed landing as “15 minutes of terror.”

At first, the descent went as planned. To the delight of scientists in the control room, four of the lander’s engines fired to slow it down as it headed toward the South Pole landing site.

Then something went wrong.

The Vikram moon lander traveled way too fast during the descent. At an altitude of 1.3 miles, the scientists lost all communications with the lander.

Lost and Found Lunar Lander

Almost 24 hours later, K.Sivan told news agencies that the lander had been detected on the moon’s surface. According to the space agency’s director, the orbiter had taken a  thermal image of the Vikram on the moon’s surface.

While the director admitted that the lander might have experienced a hard landing, the extent of the damage is still unclear. “We are trying to establish a contact,” he was quoted as saying to Asian News International.

ISRO has not publicly released the thermal image from the orbiter. However, the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, stated that the lunar mission was a learning opportunity.

In a statement to the press, Mr. Modi said:

“As important as the final result is the journey and the effort. I can proudly say that the effort was worth it, and so was the journey.”

Read More: Chinese Lunar Rover Takes Extraordinary Photos Of Dark Side Of The Moon

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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