Premier US space agency Nasa announced on Monday it had found the Chandrayaan-2 moon lander Vikram not far from where it was supposed to land in September, based on a tip from an Indian engineer and blogger. The techie said he had separately launched his own search as a “challenge” as even Nasa had seemed clueless at the time.
“It was something challenging as even Nasa can’t find out so why can’t we try out?” he said in an email in response to a request for comments.
“And, that’s the thought that led me to search for the Vikram lander. I don’t think Vikram lander would have made such an impact on the minds of the Indian public if it had landed successfully. Since, it was lost, there was a lot of discussion in public forums as well as on my Facebook regarding what malfunctioned etc,” he said.
Subramanian believed that from the beginning when he joined the space hunt from his computer in Chennai the pictures of the lunar surface put out by LROC were his only clues.
Subramanian also changed his Twitter bio after theUS space agency credited him for helping find the moon lander.
“A Mechanical Engineer, Blogger, App Developer, QA Engineer & I found Vikram Lander, read his Twitter bio.
“Vikram Lander found,” said the headline of an announcement from Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) center on its website, and acknowledged upfront the role played by Shanmuga Subramanian, a Chennai engineer who first alerted the center to the crash site.
“Thank you for your mail informing us of your discovery of Vikram lander,” read a more personal acknowledgment from John Keller, deputy project scientist at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission of Nasa.
“The LROC team confirmed that the location does exhibit changes in images taken before and after the date of the landing.” LROC is a system of three cameras mounted on the orbiter that captures high resolution black-and-white images of the lunar surface.
Working on that tip, the LROC looked around the area pointed out by Subramanian and, it said, located the site of the primary impact as well as other debris around the impact location.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had lost touch with the lander shortly before its scheduled landing on September 7, which was to be a major milestone for India’s space programme and a marker of its growing international stature as one of a handful of countries to have reached the Moon.
Nasa, the only space agency to put a man on the Moon and a growing partner and mentor for the ISRO had said, “Despite the loss (of Vikram lander), getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.”