Vikram debris spread around impact site on Moon

BENGALURU: Shattering theories that Vikram — the lander on Chandrayaan-2 — was intact despite a failed soft-landing on September 7, latest images from Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) camera show a field of debris on the lunar surface indicating that the hard-landing may have broken the lander into multiple pieces.
Analysis of Nasa images shows a debris field of Vikram about 750 metres away from the main landing site (the intended one). Vikram, according to Isro, hard-landed 500m away from the intended site, going by which the debris is about 150m away from where Vikram crashed on September 7.
The US space agency released these images early on December 3 (IST), showing the debris for the first time. “Vikram lander found,” a Nasa statement read.
It added that Shanmuga Subramanian — who TOI later found out was a mechanical engineer from Chennai — was the first to identify the debris. An image of the lunar surface with blue and green dots shows the impact point of Vikram and an associated debris field.
“Green dots indicate spacecraft debris (confirmed or likely). Blue dots locate disturbed soil, likely where small bits of the spacecraft churned up the regolith. “S” indicates debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian,” the Nasa statement read ( see image).
While multiple calls and messages to Isro chairman K Sivan went unanswered, the space agency did provide answers to an email questionnaire on the latest revelations. Isro spokesperson Vivek Singh told TOI: “We have no comments to offer.”
Elated by Nasa’s response, Subramanian, said: “Nasa has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on Moon’s surface.” Subramanian, who works at Lennox India Technology Centre in Chennai, had contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris.
“…After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing the before and after images,” Nasa said.
While the LRO Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired September 17) of the site on September 26, the impact point was poorly illuminated and not easily identifiable. LRO project then acquired two subsequent image sequences on October 14 and 15, and November 11.
“The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site (70.8810°S, 22.7840°E, 834m elevation) and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle),” Nasa added.
The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic (1.3 meter pixels, 84° incidence angle).
The November mosaic shows best the impact crater, ray and extensive debris field. The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2×2 pixels and cast a one-pixel shadow.
Although Isro had never officially said that Vikram was intact and in a tilted position, reports quoting unnamed scientists from the space agency had made the claim, which now appears to be false.

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