In what could be a major boost to India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will fly over Vikram lander’s designated landing site on Tuesday (September 17) in an attempt to locate the ISRO spacecraft, according to reports. The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) plan to soft-land the Chandrayaan-2's Vikram module on the lunar surface did not go as per script in the early hours of September 7, with the lander losing communication with ground stations during its final 2.1-km descent.
Considered as the "most complex" stage of the country's second expedition to the moon, the lander was on a powered decent for a soft landing when it lost contact.
But, later ISRO chairman K Sivan said the space agency located the lander on the lunar surface.
The image of the lander's rover 'Pragyan' is housed inside it was captured by the camera of Chandrayaan-2's orbiter, which is healthy, safe and functioning normally in the intended orbit around the Moon, the space agency said.
Notwithstanding the scientific intricacies of it all, the news sent waves of cheer among the Twitterati as they could not contain their excitement, and #VikramLanderFound began to trend worldwide on the microblogging site.
On September 17, as the US space agency’s LRO will flies over Vikram’s landing site, scientists hope that it may send us some conclusive evidence about the fate of Vikram.
What is LRO?
NASA’s robotic spacecraft has been orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit since its launch in 2009.
It has enabled numerous groundbreaking discovering regarding Earth’s only natural satellite, and its data keeps providing the essential foundation for NASA’s future man and robotic moon missions.
The LRO maps Earth's natural satellite and looks for resources that could be valuable for future human missions to the Moon.
The orbiter uses seven instruments to examine the lunar surface and its radiation environment. Among the probe's notable achievements is finding extensive evidence of water ice on the Moon's surface.
The LRO is equipped with a high-resolution camera -- one so powerful, that is has successfully taken aerial images of the Apollo landing sites with enough clarity to pinpoint the astronauts’ 4-decade-old footprints.
The same camera will be used in Tuesday’s attempt to capture pictures of Vikram.
As per NASA policy, all the data collected by the LRO will be made available publicly. Moreover, the American agency will also share the before-vs-after flyover imagery of Vikram’s landing site to aid ISRO’s analysis of the data.