India’s space agency ISRO on Wednesday rejected NASA’s claim that it had been the first to locate debris created by the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft Vikram Lander after its crash landing on the moon’s surface in September.
“Our own orbiter located Vikram Lander much earlier, we had already declared that on our website, you can go back and see,” Indian news agency ANI quoted ISRO chief Dr. K Sivan as saying.
“Vikram Lander has been located by the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, but had no communication with it yet. All possible efforts are being made to establish communication with the Lander,” a 10 September entry on ISRO’s website reads.
A Lander is a spacecraft that descends and comes to rest on the surface of an astronomical body.
ISRO also played down the claim of Shanmuga Subramanian, a mechanical engineer and a computer programmer based in Chennai, who NASA had credited with finding of the Vikram Lander debris.
"I have nothing to comment on it as ISRO had already found Vikram. We had already declared on our website three days after the landing date that Vikram has been found," the Times of India quoted Uma Maheswaran, ISRO’s Scientific Secretary, as saying.
NASA revealed on Tuesday that it had released a mosaic image of the site of the Indian spacecraft's impact on the moon’s surface in September with the help of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
At the end of September, it invited the public to search for debris from the Lander. NASA added that Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with positive identification of the debris — with the first piece found about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site.
The Indian Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft was put into lunar orbit on 20 August nearly a month after its lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.
During the mission, the Vikram lander was supposed to target a patch of high ground between two craters, Simpelius N and Manzinus C, as it attempted a soft-landing on the lunar surface, some 600 kilometres from the South Pole, but it lost contact with the ground station.
The $140 million Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission was focused on examining moon craters thought to contain water deposits.
Dr. Sivan had earlier described Chandrayaan-2 as the "most complex mission ever" undertaken by ISRO.
India had hoped to become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to make a successful Moon landing.