Long shadows block clear view as NASA fails to spot Vikram Lander but captures landing site
New Delhi, Sep 19: A NASA satellite currently orbiting the moon has reportedly failed to spot the Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander near the South Polar region, where it fell silent after having lost contact with Earth in its attempt to make a soft-landing on the moon on 7 September. The US space agency has said that the lander may not have been in the field of view of the camera on-board its orbiter.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been orbiting the moon for 10 years, passed over the Vikram landing site on Tuesday.
"The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired images around the targeted landing site, but the exact location of the lander was not known so the lander may not be in the camera field of view," said Joshua A Handal, public affairs officer, planetary science division, NASA, in an email.
''Long shadows in the area may be obscuring the silent lunar explorer. It was near dusk as the region prepares to transition from a two-week lunar day to and equally long lunar night, so shadows covered much of the region and Vikram may not be in the LROC's field of view, NASA said.
The 17 September LRO flyover of the landing site at dusk was "leading to poor lighting and a challenging imaging environment," NASA added in the statement.
Since the landing site is in a region that is currently transitioning from prolonged dusk to a two-week-long lunar night, flat surfaces inside and near the edges of craters are likely thrown into shadows that last hours or days on end, depending on where it is located on the moon's surface.
''The NASA orbiter will fly over the landing site again on October 14, which would be close to lunar noon and the lighting conditions would be favourable for getting better images, said Joshua A Handal, public affairs officer, planetary science division, NASA.
But by then, any hopes of communicating with the lander would be lost as the lunar night, which begins on September 21, will lead to temperatures in the area plummeting to -180 degree.