A U.S.-Russian crew aboard a Soyuz spacecraft safely made an emergency return to Earth on shortly after launching on what was supposed to be a mission to the International Space Station.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said there was an issue with the spacecraft’s booster after it took off Thursday from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz separated from the booster before returning in what NASA called a “ballistic descent,” which means it came in at a sharper angle than normal with the crew experiencing higher gravitational forces.
NASA said rescuers reached the crew of astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin after they landed in Kazakhstan, and both were in good condition.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said his team is working with their Russian counterparts.
Scientists are analysing the images taken under harsh light conditions by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera of the area where the Vikram moon lander is likely to have touched down on the moon and it may be a while before they can locate it, project experts told IANS.
LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Noah Petro, said on Wednesday that they were now analysing the images taken on Tuesday “and we will make a statement at some point when we can identify the lander.”
But he added, “It is important to remember that the illumination conditions right now where the lander may be are harsh.”
Therefore, it “could be difficult to identify right now (and it) may be a little longer before we have another opportunity to image the landing site next October 14” when the LRO next passes over that area of the moon.
The principal investigator for the LRO camera, Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, said that the last image of the area was acquired on Wednesday and will take time to analyse as there are “lots and lots and lots of pixels” to go through.
A NASA statement carried a note of caution saying that when the LRO flew over the Vikram landing the “local lunar time was near dusk; large shadows covered much of the area.”
The LROC “acquired images around the targeted landing site, but the exact location of the lander was not known so the lander may not be in the camera field of view,” NASA said.
“The LROC team will analyze these new images and compare them to previous images to see if the lander is visible (it may be in shadow or outside the imaged area),” it added.