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Sometimes You Need a Fresh Set of Eyes

The Big Picture:

India's space agency ISRO (India Space Research Organisation) launched its "Vikram" Lunar Lander 3 months ago as part of its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It lost contact during the final phases of descent, near the south polar regions of the Moon. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) snapped images of the area, but poor lighting kept their experts from identifying the spacecraft. So NASA released the images to the public.

Shanmuga Subramanian, an amateur image analyst, spotted what appeared to be a piece of debris about one kilometer from the expected landing location of the Indian lunar lander. He alerted ISRO he'd found the crash site.

Why Did Vikram Crash?

There was a problem with the brake thrusters. The reduction in velocity necessary for a soft landing was too much for the brake thrusters to handle. They gave out and the spacecraft crash-landed.

Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University


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