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Indian moon lander mystery deepens as NASA search comes up empty again

The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander must have found a really great hiding spot.

The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander and rover before they went to the moon.

India's lunar lander is still lost despite NASA's best efforts to find it. 

On Sept. 6, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) attempted to place its Vikram lander on the moon as part of its Chandrayaan-2 mission. ISRO lost communication with the machine shortly before it was supposed to touch down. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) scanned the expected landing site in mid-September, but wasn't able to spot the lander in the shadowy images.

LRO got another chance on Oct. 14 when it flew over the target site again, but with better lighting conditions. Still no dice. 

The LRO camera team combed through the new images and compared them with what the area looked like before the landing. That's how NASA spots new impact craters and how it found the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lander, which unsuccessfully tried for a landing in April.

So where did Vikram end up? "It is possible that Vikram is located in a shadow or outside of the search area.  Because of the low latitude, approximately 70 degrees south, the area is never completely free of shadows," NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The fate of Vikram may be uncertain, but the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is already deep into its scientific mission. ISRO tweeted a look at an orbiter image showing some moon craters in detail.

The world mourned the loss of the lander, but the mission perseveres.