NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was unable to spot India’s Vikram Moon lander during a flyby of its the landing site on the lunar surface this week.
“LRO flew over the area of the Vikram landing site on Sept. 17 when local lunar time was near dusk; large shadows covered much of the area,” a NASA spokesman told Fox News, via email. 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.”
NASA’s LROC team will analyze the new images and compare them to previous ones, the spokesman explained, noting that Vikram might be in shadow or outside of the imaged area. “LRO will next fly over the landing site on October 14 when lighting conditions will be more favorable,” he added. “NASA will make the results of the Sept. 17 flyover available as soon as possible after a necessary period of validation, analysis, and review.”
INDIA LOSES CONTACT WITH VIKRAM PROBE IN MOON LANDING ATTEMPT
Time is running out for India’s space agency to make contact with the country’s Vikram lander, which made a nerve-wracking descent to the surface of the Moon earlier this month.
The Indian Space Research Organization lost contact with the uncrewed probe when it was in the final stage of an audacious moon-landing attempt on Sept. 6. Communication with the lander was lost when it was just 1.3 miles from the lunar surface.
The lander was subsequently spotted on the lunar surface by the space agency’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and technicians have been working to establish a connection with Vikram. However, they are in a race against time to contact the lander, which contains the six-wheeled Pragyan rover.
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Vikram and its rover have a lifespan of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days, according to ISRO. This means that the probe will reach the end of its life on Sept. 20.
It is not yet clear what damage the lander suffered during its descent. The U.S., Russia and China are the only other countries to have successfully landed on the moon.
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue its mission for a year.
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The roughly $140 million Chandrayaan-2 mission is intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.
Earlier this year, Israel’s uncrewed Beresheet spacecraft crashed during a moon landing attempt.
The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft carrying the Vikram Lander launched from Sriharikota in southern India on July 22.
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India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, orbited the moon in 2008 but did not land there. It did, however, launch an impact probe that was intentionally crashed into the moon.
Chandrayaan-1 operated for 312 days.
The moon looms large for a number of countries’ space programs. China, for example, became the first country to successfully land a probe on the far side earlier this year when the Chang’e 4 lander reached the lunar surface on Jan. 2.
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The U.S. also has its sights set on the celestial satellite and plans to land American astronauts, including the first woman, by 2024.
The Artemis program will also establish a sustainable human presence.
NASA recently revealed details of its vision for the Artemis Moon Lander.
50 YEARS AFTER APOLLO 11, NEIL ARMSTRONG’S SONS DESCRIBE THE DAY THEIR DAD WALKED ON THE MOON
Speaking at Kennedy Space Center on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, Vice President Pence announced that the Orion capsule that will take American astronauts back to the satellite is ready.
Since Apollo 11, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the surface, only 10 more men, all Americans, have walked there.
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At a White House event in July, Aldrin voiced his disappointment over America’s space progress since the days of Apollo 11.
Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia, Morgan Cheung and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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