Meet the Chennai engineer who helped NASA, ISRO spot Vikram debris on lunar surface

NASA made the announcement today, releasing an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft's impact (September 6 in India and September 7 in the US).

Meet the Chennai engineer who helped NASA, ISRO spot Vikram debris on lunar surface
Meet the Chennai engineer who helped NASA, ISRO spot Vikram debris on lunar surface

Meet the Chennai engineer who helped NASA, ISRO spot Vikram debris on lunar surface

A Chennai-based engineer has been credited by NASA for alerting them about the presence of the debris of the lander of Chandrayaan 2, India's ambitious moon mission. Shanmuga Subramanian, 33, found the debris from the Vikram moon lander that scientists had been looking for and helped guide them to the spot where it had crashed, reported NDTV.

Armed with just his laptop and an internet connection, Subramanian said he worked for up to seven hours every day in his Chennai apartment in his mission to locate the lander. "I narrowed my search to 2 square kilometres. I used only a laptop and searched all the images," he said.

ISRO had lost contact with the lander Vikram following its launch from Chandraayan 2 moon orbiter on September 6 when it tried to make soft-landing near the moon's south pole. NASA made the announcement today, releasing an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft's impact (September 6 in India and September 7 in the US).

The US space agency had released a mosaic image of the site earlier on September 26, inviting the public to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander. Subramaniam was the first person to come up with positive identification. The mechanical engineer said NASA's inability to find the lander on its own had sparked his interest.

"Is This Vikram Lander?  (1 Km From The Landing Spot) Lander Might Have Been Buried In Lunar Sand?" Mr  Subramanian had tweeted on October 3, tagging NASA and ISRO. On November 17, he tweeted more details with two images of the crash site.

"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," NASA said in a statement. The lander had lost contact shortly before the scheduled attempt to soft-land on the moon on September 7. Days after the failed landing, ISRO said it had located the lander, but hadn't been able to establish communication.

"I had side-by-side comparison of those two images on two of my laptops... on one side there was the old image, and another side there was the new image released by NASA," he told news agency AFP, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users. "It was quite hard, but (I) spent some effort," said the self-professed space nerd, finally announcing his discovery on Twitter on October 3.

NASA then performed additional searches in the area and officially announced the finding almost two months later.