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Indian lunar lander spotted from orbit

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently photographed India's Chandrayaan-3 lander, the first craft to successfully touch down near the Moon's south pole. Captured on August 27th, the detailed image shows the Vikram lander's rectangular shadow surrounded by a bright halo from its landing rockets.

Vikram touched down 600 km from the south pole with the Pragyan rover on August 23rd. The pair studied the environment for almost two weeks before being put on standby for the next lunar night. Originally not slated to restart, mission leaders report fully charged batteries and favorably angled solar panels to potentially catch sunrise on September 22nd and continue operations.

Days prior, LRO also spotted the crash site of Russia's August Luna 25 mission, which impacted after a failed pre-landing burn. The high-speed collision likely formed a new crater.

In 2022, LRO discovered wreckage of Japan's Hakuto-R lander and UAE rover after their unsuccessful landing. It also located scarring from an unknown missile impact, suspected to be Chinese in origin.

Beyond crash investigations, LRO has collected immense scientific data over 14 years, aiding future Artemis astronauts. Its observations help identify landmarks and geological features of interest.

LRO's longevity and imaging capabilities continue enabling lunar discoveries even after nearly a decade and a half. As India celebrates its Chandrayaan-3 success, LRO science enriches the mission by capturing Vikram's original landing site. The orbiter's work underscores international cooperation advancing lunar knowledge, all while preparing for humanity's return. Even as rockets fail or succeed, LRO endures as our watchful eye over the Moon.

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