K Sivan, the chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, said the Vikram lander was found on the moon by cameras on board the spacecraft Chandrayaan-2.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on September 9, 2019

India has found its lost lunar lander on the surface of the moon thanks to mother spacecraft Chandrayaan-2.

With the historic event being televised across India, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) looked on track to be the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon with its spaceship Chandrayaan-2 manoeuvring its lander, Vikram, onto the moon’s south pole, the unknown part of the moon.

Indian Space Research Organisation said on Friday (local time) the lander’s descent was normal until two kilometres from the moon’s surface when contact was lost.

However K Sivan, the chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, told Times of India the Vikram lander was found by cameras on board Chandrayaan-2.

“Yes, we have located the lander on the lunar surface. It must have been a hard landing,” Sivan said.

“We have the image (of Vikram lander) and are analysing the data,” he said, adding the Indian Space Research Organisation has been unable to get a signal from Vikram, which carries within its shell a 27kg Moon rover with instruments to analyse the lunar soil.

Chandrayaan-2
Chandrayaan-2 launches from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

A successful landing would have made India just the 4th country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third to operate a robotic rover there.

Indian Space Research Organisation has not yet released the Chandrayaan-2 image of Vikram on the lunar surface or described the condition of the lander after its hard-landing on the moon.

“The Vikram Lander followed the planned descent trajectory from its orbit of 35 km (22 miles) to just below 2 km above the surface,” ISRO wrote in an update on Saturday. “All the systems and sensors of the Lander functioned excellently until this point and proved many new technologies such as variable thrust propulsion technology used in the Lander.”

The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft could last well beyond its planned one-year mission and is equipped with eight different science instruments to study the moon from above. Those instruments include a high resolution camera, a lunar terrain mapping camera; a solar X-ray monitor; an imaging infrared spectrometer; a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar for studying moon water ice and lunar mapping; a sensor to study the moon’s thin exosphere; and a dual-frequency radio science experiment to study the moon’s ionosphere.

“The Orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community,” ISRO officials said in the 7 September statement. “The precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost seven years instead of the planned one year.”

Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second mission to the moon after the Chandrayaan-1 mission of 2008 and 2009. An instrument on that first mission discovered the spectral signature for water across wide swaths of the moon, with big concentrations at the lunar poles, where permanently shadowed craters allow water ice to stay frozen.

Chandrayaan-2 was launched from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on 22 July. The craft reached the Moon’s orbit on 20 August and began orbital positioning manoeuvres for the landing of the Vikram lander.

Sivan broke down soon after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on TV after Chandrayaan-2’s lander was lost and warmly consoled by the PM.