NASA’s Lunar Recognition Orbiter (LRO) has passed the target landing site of India’s Vikram lander spacecraft for the second time and, again, failed to detect the vehicle.
The Vikram landing module was part of India’s Chandrayaan 2 mission, and on September 6, it was supposed to land softly on the surface of the moon and begin two weeks of scientific research, including the deployment of a rover. But at the end of that process, the spacecraft fell silent. The Indian space agency said it had seen the landing module shortly after the alleged accident but has not provided more details.
“I suspect, based on what they have said, that it could simply be that we are not looking at the right place or we simply cannot see it because of the lighting,” Noah Petro, a NASA LRO orbiter project scientist told Space.com NASA Lunar Recognition Orbiter. “Until we know more details about where it is, it will be very difficult for us to find it,” he said.
During the first flyby, in mid-September, the area was covered with large shadows. They had been reduced a little for the second flyby, on October 14, and will be further reduced when the spacecraft returns in mid-November, Petro said.
But NASA’s spacecraft has not seen the Vikram lander landing module at any time. “LRO did not observe any evidence of the landing module,” according to the agency’s official statement about the attempt. “It is possible that Vikram is in a shadow or outside the search area.”
Despite the silence of the landing module, the Chandrayaan 2 mission continues, with a spacecraft in orbit successfully gathering scientific data using a set of eight instruments.