WASHINGTON/ NEW DELHI: The Chandrayaan 2 lander had a "hard landing" when it lost contact with the ground station during a historic attempt to soft land on the lunar surface, NASA said today, adding that a team of scientists at the US space agency has not been able to locate it.
"The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing Sept. 7 (Sept. 6 in the United States), on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters. Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands has yet to be determined," NASA said in a statement and released pictures of the targeted landing site, labelling the craters.
The pictures were captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft during its flyby on September 17. The images were taken at dusk, and the team was not able to locate the lander, the US space agency said.
It is possible that the Chandrayaan 2 lander is hiding in a shadow, it added. "The scene above was captured from a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Quickmap fly-around of the targeted landing site image width is about 150 kilometres across the centre...so far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander. It was dusk when the landing area was imaged and thus large shadows covered much of the terrain; it is possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow," the statement said.
The moon orbiter will try to "locate and image the lander" again in October when lighting will be favourable, NASA said.
The deadline to contact Vikram, which had a 14-day mission life, ended on Saturday last as lunar night began to fall in the south polar region of the moon where the lander was attempting a descent.
On Thursday, ISRO chief K Sivan said a national-level committee is analysing "what really went wrong with the lander". "We have got no signal from lander. A national-level committee is now analysing what really went wrong with the lander. May be after the committees submits the report, we'll work on the future plan. Necessary approvals and other processes are required. We are working on that," Mr Sivan told news agency ANI.
"Our next priority is Gaganyaan mission," the top space scientist in the country added.
India had expected to make space history with the Rs. 1,000-crore Chandrayaan 2 mission.
A successful soft landing on the moon's surface would have made the country only the fourth - after the United States, Russia and China - to achieve the feat. It would also have made India the first country to complete a soft landing near the South Pole on its first attempt.