Dec 3, 2019

NASA finds India's crashed Moon lander

A before/after showing the Vikram lander's crash site. Gif: NASA/Goddard/ASU

The final resting place of India's failed lunar lander has been found.

The big picture: The Vikram lander was India's bid to become the fourth nation to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. The mission failed on Sept. 6 when a thruster issue caused the lander to crash not long before its expected touchdown.

What's happening: On Sept. 26, NASA released a mosaic image taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that included Vikram's presumed crash site.

  • NASA credits engineer Shanmuga Subramanian with tipping off the space agency to the location of the Vikram's debris after examining the mosaic.
  • "After receiving this tip, the LROC [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera] team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images," NASA said in a statement Monday night.

Background: Vikram wasn't the only lunar lander to fail this year. Israel's Beresheet spacecraft also crashed into the Moon during its attempt at a landing.

  • China, on the other hand, became the first country to land on the far side of the Moon with its successful landing of the Chang'e-4 lander in January.

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India admits its lunar lander crashed

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 launches on July 22, 2019. Photo: Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images.

The Indian government confirmed in a recent report that its Vikram lunar lander crashed or "hard landed" during its September mission after its fine braking thrusters malfunctioned.

Why it matters: The unsuccessful mission was India's attempt to become the first country to explore the moon's south pole, after announcing plans to launch people into space in the early 2020s.

Go deeperArrowNov 26, 2019

NASA's difficult road to the Moon

Photo: NASA

A new report paints a stark picture of NASA's progress toward accomplishing its Artemis mission to the Moon in 2024.

Why it matters: The report from NASA's inspector general — and others like it — reveals some of what lurks below the positive face the space agency puts forward announcing its accomplishments and hyping its future endeavors.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

NASA picks a sample site for asteroid mission

OSIRIS-REx's chosen landing site on Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft — designed to snag a piece of an asteroid and deliver it back to Earth — officially has a sample collection site.

Why it matters: Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the dawn of the solar system, so the sample that OSIRIS-REx gets from the asteroid Bennu could help scientists piece together the history of planetary formation and even how organic compounds made it to Earth.

Go deeperArrowDec 12, 2019