The lander Vikram of Chandrayaan-2 lost contact with ISRO shortly before an expected landing. Is there any way to find out if it landed without crashing?

For example, are there satellites orbiting the moon that pass overhead the chosen polar landing site capable of imaging the surface? Or are there any rovers in vicinity that might confirm the fate of the lost lander Vikram?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Seems they have found the thermal image of Vikram on the moon from Orbiter. Just now saw in Times Now News. They are trying to establish contact. Hopefully it landed in one piece! $\endgroup$ – Guru Vishnu Sep 8 '19 at 9:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Technically, Chandrarayaan-2 is still at work orbiting the Moon. It's the Vikram lander which, sadly, didn't land as we had hoped. $\endgroup$ – Oscar Lanzi Sep 30 '19 at 21:33

I think a somewhat reasonable first-order analysis would look at the fates of similar hard impact failures on the moon and in deep space. The most immediately relevant is the failure of Israel's Beresheet lander, which failed similarly during landing. Beresheet was much smaller and lighter, so the hard impact resulted in total loss of mission. I think the best-case scenario would be a Rosetta-like landing where the craft remains partially operational for a short period of time. The former is most likely the case for Vikram.

In terms of verification, I think rovers are out of the question, as I think China has one of the only active rovers working on the opposite side of the moon - along with any rover having to take on significant risk towards completing their primary mission if they were to try to check this out. It's also taken years for current rovers to move on the order of 10km, so trying to confirm a crash site would likely be impossible.

On the imaging side, the LRO was able to image the location on November 11th, areas of disturbed regolith and debris were identified - at 0.7 m per pixel the largest debris debris was 2x2 pixels, casting a single pixel shadow

Nonetheless, a big congratulations is due to the ISRO for attempting to join an elite club of nations that have soft landed a craft on the moon, and their engineering and design work was sound all the up until the last moments. I hope they won't be discouraged by this (currently uncertain) loss.

| improve this answer | |
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ +1 I added "currently uncertain" to the last sentence, we don't know what happened quite yet... $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 7 '19 at 3:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Love the optimism! $\endgroup$ – mothman Sep 7 '19 at 6:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ They say communication was lost at about 2km altitude, but this interesting plot i.stack.imgur.com/irKdO.png (from here) shows a non-nominal descent rate well below 2 km. If the dot followed the nominal trajectory, then we could assume the graphic was playing a pre-recorded descent, but since it suddenly deviates dramatically, I'm guessing that some kind of telemetry or transponder signal was still working well below 2 km. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 7 '19 at 9:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Ah yes, You are right. I had seen the plot before but didn't pay much attention to the lowest altitude it was displaying. I suspect a minor cover-up.. $\endgroup$ – William R. Ebenezer Sep 7 '19 at 9:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You very well could have lost one end of the link, and received status and telemetry for a bit, but not been able to command adjustments to the fine breaking to make the course correction to keep it on the red line, right? I'm sure they're doing fault analysis right now and will be for a while. Typically they'll lock down mission control and start deep diving into what happened. $\endgroup$ – mothman Sep 7 '19 at 17:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.