US space agency, Nasa, has released high-resolution images of India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram’s intended landing site.
Nasa tweeted pictures of the site but was unable to locate the lost Vikram Lander.
A statement issued by Nasa on September 26, said:
‘The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing September 7, 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. 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 kilometers across the center.
Vikram, was scheduled to touch down on at 4:24 pm Eastern Daylight Time. This event was India’s first attempt at a soft landing on the moon. The site was located about 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the south pole in a relatively ancient terrain (70.8°S latitude, 23.5°E longitude). In order to visualize the site, take a quick fly-around. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the landing site on September 17 and acquired a set of high resolution images of the area; 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 lighting will be favorable when LRO passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander.’
Did the failure of India’s moon lander Vikram’s navigation systems result in its crash-landing on the lunar surface on September 7 is also among the questions that are being asked by space experts to explain the setback to the moon programme.
Earlier, it was said the non-functioning of Vikram’s throttleable engines in unison, resulted in its somersault and later crash-landing.
According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a national level committee comprising of its own experts and academicians is currently analysing the cause of the communication loss with Vikram.
The Indian space agency says that Vikram lost communication link with the ground stations and are silent on the lander’s final fate.
According to an official, Vikram was at an altitude of 30 km from the lunar surface when it started its descent to soft-land on the lunar surface.
The official said that predicting orbits below 50 km is very tricky and usually they are estimated with an accuracy of plus/minus 1 km. If the lander’s predicted height was at 30 km, the actual orbit height may remain anywhere between 29 to 31 km.
Similar will be the error in horizontal direction. Such errors occur as local gravity varies widely due to large variation of density of mountains and plains.
Over mountains, the lander’s height reduces and over plains, the height increases.
According to the official, when last height of Vikram was shown as 335 metre, it might have crash-landed on moon at a speed of 65 metres per second or about 220 km per hour.
“At that speed of crash, Vikram would have broken into pieces,” the official added.
The non-inclusion of altimeter data in the navigation computer may be due to a software bug which was not detected by conducting proper pre-flight tests or it was missed out by mistake or oversight.
The chances of altimeter not functioning is also remote as any anomaly would have been noticed during the health checks that were done earlier, the official said.
On July 22, the Rs 978 crore Chandrayaan-2 was launched into the space by India’s heavy lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV Mk III) in a text book style.
The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft comprised three segments — the Orbiter (weighing 2,379 kg, eight payloads), Vikram (1,471 kg, four payloads) and Pragyan (27 kg, two payloads).
After five earth-bound orbit raising activities, Chandrayaan-2 was inserted into the lunar orbit. On September 2, Vikram separated from the orbiter.
(With inputs from IANS)