India’s Lunar Lander is Nowhere to Be Seen and NASA Can’t Find it Anywhere

It's like it vanished into "thin air."

India’s Lunar Lander is Nowhere to Be Seen and NASA Can’t Find it Anywhere

The mystery surrounding India’s Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander is nowhere to be seen. Reports from NASA suggest that the Indian Lunar lander has disappeared from sight, probably having found a really great hiding spot on the lunar surface, avoiding being seen by several satellite flyovers.

In a historical attempt, on September 6, 2019, the Indian Space Research Organization tried landing its Vikram spacecraft on the surface of the moon, as part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission. In the attempt, scientists reported that they lost all communications with the lander shortly before it was supposed to touch down on the surface of the moon.

Many had speculated that the spacecraft had crashed into the moon, but early indicators from ISRO suggested the spacecraft had actually landed, but with obvious communication problems. In an effort to find the spacecraft on the moon, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) flew over the expected landing site in September but was unable to see anything, mostly due to poor lighting conditions on the surface of the Moon.

On October 14, 2019, the LRO flew over the landing site one more time, this time with better lighting conditions, but was unable to see the spacecraft, raising the question of whether it had actually landed there in the first place.

NASA scientists in charge of the LRO spent a lot of time looking at images snapped by their lunar orbiter, comparing them with photographs of the search site taken before landing, in an attempt to spot the lost Indian lander. In fact, this is how they spotted the crash site of India’s Beresheet lander which tried landing on the moon in April of 2019.

Comparing images of before and after yielded no results, and scientists have not found traces of the lander anywhere.

So where is it? Did it just disappear?

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Not likely.

In a statement released by NASA, scientists explained that “It is possible that Vikram is located in a shadow or outside of the search area.  Because of the low latitude, approximately 70 degrees south, the area is never completely free of shadows.”

“I suspect, based on what they’ve said, that it could be just that we’re not looking at the right place or we just can’t see it because of the illumination,” Noah Petro, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist, told Space.com.

“Until we know more details about where it is, it’s going to be very hard for us to find it,” he added.

Although the fate of the lost Indian lander may be certain at this point, the mission itself is not a total failure since the agency’s Chandrayaan-2 is effectively orbiting the moon, already gathering a plethora of scientific data and snapping stunning images of the lunar surface along the way.

The lander is most likely somewhere on the lunar surface, obscured by the lack of sunlight on the surface, hiding and waiting for someone to finally spot its presence on the moon.