Chennai Engineer Helps NASA Spot Vikram Lander Debris

Vikram Lander

NASA spots lost Vikram lunar lander’s impact site on the Moon

Asked how he got interested, Subramanian said: "Space exploration is nothing new for me as I have been interested in space right from the scratch and watched ISRO's rocket launches closely even managed to capture some of it on my YouTube channel". The space agency credited Subramanian for the first positive identification of debris. NASA confirmed it this Tuesday morning, crediting Shan, as he likes to be called, for the clue. I expect they'll learn their lesson, implement fixes, and continue to explore space.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted debris, marked in green, and soil disturbance, marked in blue, caused by the hard impact of India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on September 6, 2019. He was heartbroken when the Lander went incommunicado during the landing.

NASA's LRO took this mosaic image of the Vikram lander crash site on the moon.

NASA's confirmation came almost three months after India's Chandrayaan-2 mission made a hard landing near the uncharted lunar south pole in the wee hours of September 7. During that time, NASA and the LRO project scientists, had expressed their inability to find the lander as the area in which the lander had crashed was in deep shadows. It was visible only as a dot because of the resolution of 1.25 metre per pixel. "I narrowed my search to 2 square kilometres". He pointed out that no white dot was seen in the old picture of the same spot from December 2017 which indicated that the white dot on the left image is Vikram lander.

India had meant to follow in the footsteps of space behemoths China, the United States and the USSR but instead fell to the same disappointing demise as Israel, who also failed in their aim of landing on the moon earlier this year. "I kept comparing picture by picture for nearly a week and used to do it for seven hours a day", he told TNM.

"I feel very happy that I could find the debris".

Subramanian added that he used two of his laptops to compare before and after impact images side-by-side. "Then I reached out to NASA". "(1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?", Subramanian had tagged the twitter handles of NASA, LRO and ISRO in a tweet on October 3.

On October 18, he wrote to both ISRO and NASA about this. "But I couldn't email ISRO since I did not have the right contact".

Shanmuga reported what he had found to NASA and scientists working with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's camera, who confirmed his finding and scoured the surrounding area. The loss of this lunar lander was a blow, but it's early days yet for them. "Now, I can go to office and tease them back", he said jokingly.

Subramanian said there was burgeoning community of science enthusiasts online but efforts are needed to institutionalise it: " I would suggest Students and others to help out NASA, ISRO and other space organizations by building a good database of LRO images with features like comparison etc., now we have to compare it manually. wish someone can do more on that".

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