NEW DELHI: After almost three months of frantic search for the Vikram lander by scientists from across the world, it was finally a 33-year-old techie from Chennai who found the debris of Chandrayaan-2’s lander on Moon by using Nasa’s lunar images.
“I found Vikram lander,” says Shanmuga Subramanian (Shan), a mechanical engineer and a computer programmer who works as a technical architect at IT company Lennox India Technology Centre in Chennai, after making this year’s greatest finding of the lander, which made a hard-landing on Moon’s south pole during a landing attempt on September 7.
“NASA has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on Moon’s surface,” tweeted Shanmuga, a bachelor who hails from Madurai and had earlier worked for Cognizant as a programme analyst.
@NASA has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on Moon’s surface #VikramLander #Chandrayaan2 @timesofindia… https://t.co/NJPPTr4aBP
— Shan (@Ramanean) 1575327690000
Shan said he used lunar images captured by Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO), circling the Moon, and compared the images for days to locate the lander debris.
“When Nasa was not able to find Vikram lander, it was a challenge for us. So, I took up this challenge. I did go through lots of images. I did not spend lots of days but I spent just four days seeing through images for at least 7 to 8 hours daily. At last, I was able to pinpoint the debris by comparing (different lunar) images. I feel really elated that I did it what Isro and Nasa could not find,” he told Times Now.
On how did he start his search, Shan said, “We knew about the lander coordinates. I searched for the path that the lander would have followed. I took telemetry data from Nasa’s live broadcast like what was the last location of the lander and how much distance it was from there. Then I searched around 2 x 2 sq km area.” During the search, Shan found a tiny dot which he compared with previous images of that area of the south pole. “I was able to pinpoint something which was out of ordinary from there and looked like debris. I tweeted first to Nasa as well as Isro. Then I had sent emails to a couple of Nasa scientists who then replied, saying ‘it was indeed Vikram debris‘,” he said.
After finding the lander debris, Shan first tweeted on October 3, “Is this Vikram lander? (1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?”. Then on October 18, he emailed Nasa about his findings. However, Nasa took nearly one and a half month to confirm his findings on the debris.
Confirming news to the world, Nasa later tweeted: “The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander has been found by our NasaMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. See the first mosaic of the imapct site.” An image of Moon with blue and green dots show the impact point of Vikram and an associated debris field.
The #Chandrayaan2 Vikram lander has been found by our @NASAMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. See the… https://t.co/niHBT1STV2
— NASA (@NASA) 1575318157000
“Green dots indicate spacecraft debris. Blue dots locate disturbed soil, likely where small bits of the spacecraft churned up the regolith (moon soil). “S” indicates debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian,” the Nasa statement read. The debris is about 750 metre northwest of the crash site.
A space enthusiast who regularly posts on space missions, Shan tweeted, “We could do a lot with LRO’s data. I wish students take it up as a science project and come out with a tool that would help to compare the pics, see the changes on moon’s surface and crater impacts very easily. Our path to Mars lies in establishing a base on the moon.”
On being contacted to seek Isro’s reply on Shan’s findings, Isro scientific secretary Uma Maheswaran told TOI, “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 Isro post on its website on September 10 stated, “Vikram lander has been located by the orbiter of Chandrayaan-2, but no communication with it yet. All possible efforts are being made to establish communication with lander.”