NASA finds Vikram Lander with the help of Chennai techie

NASA has credited Chennai-based engineer and space science enthusiast Shanmuga Subramanian for a tip-off that led to the discovery of ISRO’s moonlander Vikram, which crashed into the surface of the moon in the last stages of a complex manoeuvre in September this year.

NASA’s confirmation came nearly 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.

In a tweet sharing before and after impact images, NASA said, “The Chandrayaan2 Vikram lander has been found by our NASA Moon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. See the first mosaic of the impact site.”

On September 7, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) attempted a soft landing of Vikram on the Moon. However, ISRO lost contact with Vikram shortly before the scheduled touchdown.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team had released the first mosaic of images acquired during its September 17 flyby of the Moon. NASA has said its moon mission has discovered the remains of India’s Vikram Lander and identified the debris spotted by Subramanian with an “S” on its image.

The Chennai-based technologist discovered debris about 750 m from the main crash site of the lander, informed NASA, which said images made public by the space agency was combed by enthusiasts in search of the spacecraft.

“Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired Sept. 17) of the site on Sept. 26 and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram. Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images.”

Vikram went incommunicado shortly before its scheduled touchdown near the lunar south pole. A tense nation watched as the Isro control room’s mood of cheerful anticipation evaporated. The prime minister was on hand to offer words of comfort.