Chennai Engineer Helps NASA Spot Vikram Lander Debris
Almost three months after India lost contact with Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander, a NASA satellite orbiting the Moon has found debris of the crashed lander with the help of a Chennai engineer.
On Monday, December 2, the US space agency NASA announced that the Vikram Lander was found by NASA Moon Mission’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). NASA also credited the findings to Shanmuga Subramanian, a 33-year-old IT professional from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
“Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC(Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera) team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images,” said NASA in a statement.
NASA also released one of the images taken by LROC, highlighting the impact field and associated debris field. The image also had the debris found by Subramanian marked with an ‘S.’
— NASA (@NASA) December 2, 2019
Subramanian also shared an image of a mail from NASA confirming his findings, on Twitter, on Tuesday, December 3, and said, “NASA has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on Moon’s surface.”
— Shan (@Ramanean) December 2, 2019
The LROC team had released the first mosaic on September 26(but taken on September 17). NASA also said that when the images for the first mosaic were acquired, the impact point was poorly illuminated. As a result, it was difficult to identify.
Further, two images were acquired by the team on October 14 and 15 and November 11. Using these images, the LROC team identified the impact site and associated debris field.
The debris first located by Subramanian was a single bright pixel identification in the first mosaic and is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site.
“I just located the debris of the lander. So, based upon it, NASA searched around the location and found more debris off the Vikram Lander. What I did was I just found one piece of it,” NDTV quoted Subramanian.
Subramanian added that he used two of his laptops to compare before and after impact images side-by-side. He also took the help of Twitter and Reddit users.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission was ISRO’s attempt at a soft landing on the Moon’s South Polar region. If successful, India would have been the fourth country to make a succesful moon landing and the first on the lunar south pole.
The mission had lifted off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan space centre, in Sriharikota. It had entered the lunar orbit on August 20, and the unmanned lander Vikram separated from the mission’s orbiter on September 2.
However, just 2.1 kilometres above the moon’s surface, ISRO lost contact with Vikram. While days after the unsuccessful landing ISRO had located the lander, they could not establish communication.