India’s space agency says it has located the lunar probe that was feared lost as it was making its final approach towards the surface last weekend.
The Vikram lander was just two kilometers above the moon’s South Pole Saturday when ground controllers lost contact with the spacecraft. The Indian Space Research Organization said Tuesday the Chandrayaan-2 probe has discovered the lander on the surface, but had not yet established communications with Vikram, named after Vikram Sarabhai, the scientist regarded as the “father” of India’s space program.
If the probe landed intact, India will join the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to achieve a soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon. It will also become the first nation to attempt a controlled landing on the moon’s South Pole.
The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mothership entered lunar orbit nearly a month after it was launched aboard India’s powerful Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark Three rocket. The Vikram lander was designed to release a small rover that will roam the moon’s surface in search for signs of water, and to assess its topography and geology.
Chandrayaan-2 was a huge step up from India’s previous space explorations, such as its first moon mission in 2008 and a mission to Mars in 2013 that involved sending a spacecraft to the Red Planet.