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NASA’s LRO To Flyby Chandrayaan-2 Landing Site; Could Locate Vikram Lander
ISRO's Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram lost communications with Earth during its final moments of descent on the Moon's surface on September 7. Today, an orbiter operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be flying over Vikram's landing site and attempt to locate and capture pictures of the lander.
Vikram's pictures will be captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). However, there are some concerns regarding the photo shoot as the fading sunlight on the lunar surface could hamper the quality of the pictures. The exact time of NASA's orbiter flyby is unknown yet.
NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter To The Rescue?
Interestingly, the LRO had managed to collect data during the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram's descent in the wee hours of September 7. A NASA official said that the LRO observed the changes in Moon's atmosphere caused by rocket effluents released during Vikram's landing.
Moreover, the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram and NASA LRO share the same area for key focus. Both have the objective to explore Moon's polar region that's believed to have iced water pockets in its shadowed craters. The orbiter's predecessor- Chandrayaan-1 confirmed the presence of ice water on the region nearly a decade ago. Now, Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will continue studying the south polar region of the Moon to estimate the quantity of ice water there.
Chandrayaan-2 Lander Vikram: What Next?
It's been 10 days since Vikram stopped all communications and went radio silent on September 7. The Indian Space Research Organization needs to get its comms up and running with the lander. Vikram and its six-wheeled rover Pragyaan had a mission for one lunar day, which is parallel to 14 Earth days. It is crucial for ISRO to hear back from Vikram by September 21, as it'll be night time on the Moon by then.
Even if all the communication channels are working by then, Vikram will be left with no resources to charge-up at Chandrayaan-2 lander and keep it powered on. Hence, the images from NASA's LRO can be crucial to understanding Vikram's situation right now.