NASA Photographs Show No Evidence of Indian Lunar Lander Presumed Crashed on the Moon

The fate of India's unmanned moon lander, Vikram, is still shrouded in mystery as a NASA scan of the area revealed no new clues. Vikram veered from its landing sequence 2.1 kilometers from the moon's surface before losing contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). A hard landing is suspected.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter scanned the area where Vikram is thought to be. However, no photographic evidence was discovered. NASA said the photos were taken at dusk when Vikram's location could have been concealed by shadows.

The lander was part of the Chandrayaan-2 project and, had it been successful, would have made India the fourth country to have landed on the moon.

New Scientist reports that Vikram was supposed to land near the south pole of the moon, an area no previous mission had explored. This area is of interest because portions of the craters there are constantly in shadow. There could even be water in the form of ice in those craters.

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India lost communication with its unmanned spacecraft on September 7 just before it was due to land on the Moon, in a major setback to the country's lunar ambitions amid renewed interest in Earth's satellite. Manjunath Kiran/Getty

According to Nature, Indian scientists were hoping to expand upon the findings from Chandrayaan-1, which detected signals of water on the moon. Between the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and Vikram, the mission was set to provide detailed maps of where water could be on the moon.

But something went wrong, and Vikram's planned landing went awry. What kind of landing it had is in question. NASA says Vikram had a hard landing, essentially a crash.

But the ISRO thinks it may have landed softly, perhaps on its side, and that contact with the lander can be reestablished.

Scientific data can still be obtained from the orbiter which carries, among its scientific instruments, a radar that can detect water ice inside the darkened craters. It also holds a spectrometer that measures light reflections. Those reflections can be used to identify water on the surface of the moon.

The Artemis mission, NASA's manned return to the moon planned for 2024, will be exploring that same area. If water is found on the moon, it could be used by future lunar explorers. Water is also used to create rocket fuel. NASA also plans a small orbiting outpost called Gateway, which will serve as a waystation for astronauts visiting the moon.

The Indian mission to the moon follows Israel's attempt to land on the lunar surface this past April. According to, the Beresheet lander lost contact with mission control and had a hard landing April 11.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will pass over the landing site again in October, and the search for Vikram will continue.