NASA moon mystery SOLVED: Space agency finally finds missing Indian Moon probe

The space agency has announced the discovery of the shattered remains of India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, which was colloquially nicknamed Vikram. Vikram went missing on September 6 as it approached the Moon’s south pole, where it had planned to land in order to confirm the presence of water ice, where the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with the machine. However, after a three month search, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has discovered the wreckage of Vikram about 600 km (372 miles) from the Moon’s south pole.

By analysing before and after images of the September 6 crash, NASA was able to locate the impact crater.

So far, the US, Russia and China are the only countries to have successfully landed on the Moon’s surface, but NASA said India had a good go of it.

The space agency said in a statement: “The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometres from the south pole.

“Unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown (September 7 in India, September 6 in the United States).

“Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.”

The Chandrayaan-2, which cost roughly $140million (£114million), was intended to study moon craters which are thought to contain water deposits.

The permanent craters were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

The spacecraft carrying the Vikram lander launched from Sriharikota in southern India on July 22.

India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1 orbited the moon in 2008 but did not land.

Now, a British firm Spacebit – a London-based startup – plans to launch its robotic “crawler” to the moon by 2021, making it the first time the UK will get to the moon, if all goes to plan.

Spacebit is working in conjunction with US firm Astrobotic which was rewarded a $79.5m (£65m) contract to transport 14 instruments to the lunar surface.

The British firm has high ambitions for when it reaches the moon, including helping to set up a permanent base.

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Spacebit CEO Pavlo Tanasyu told “I believe in terms of the opportunities that the UK provides is quite good for space exploration because it is less regulated and you can do something even if it is a private company.

“I wish that we have a slightly larger budget so we can go and do something for the agencies in the ways that companies are doing in the UK.

“It is like a new space race and there is a race to the Moon, and a race to other planets.”

Earlier this year, Israel’s unscrewed Beresheet spacecraft suffered an unfortunate blow after crashing during a Moon landing attempt.

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