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Chennai techie traces Vikram lander with LRO, NASA confirms
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Chennai techie traces Vikram lander with LRO, NASA confirms

Agency News

Chennai, Dec 3 : The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander, which had lost communication with the ground station minutes before soft landing on the Moon's south Polar Region on September seven, has been traced by NASA's Moon Mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

NASA in a statement said, a Chennai-based techie Shanmuga Subramanian, has made India's greatest '#SpaceDiscovery of #VikramLander'. He used Lunar images from NASA's Moon LRO Mission, studied them and located the debris of VikramLander. After authenticating the discovery NASA confirmed and released the images. NASA said the image shows the Vikram Lander impact point and 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. This portion of the Narrow Angle Camera mosaic was made from images M1328074531L/R and M1328081572L/R acquired on November 11. It said the Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 km from the south pole. Unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with the lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown.

Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement. The LRO Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired September 17) of the site on September 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. When the images for the first mosaic were acquired the impact point was poorly illuminated and thus not easily identifiable. Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on October 14, 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, 834 m elevation) and associated debris field.

The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle).

The debris first located by Shanmuga was about 750 m 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 2x2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow.

An elated 33-year old mechanical engineer Shanmuga Subramanian, who hails from Madurai and working as Technical Architect at Lennox India Technology Centre here, said he was first to spot the debris of Vikram lander on the lunar surface after it had crashlanded. Subramanian, who never misses to witness the the PSLV and GSLV launches on Doordarshan, said he got very much interested in the Chandrayaan-2 mission in the wake of extensive media coverage.

On Tuesday, his Facebook friends congratulated him after he posted a message that NASA has credited him for finding the Vikram lander. Since the crash landing on September seven, the Indian as well as the global space community were pondering about the fate of Vikram as there was no trace of it. However, space enthusiast Subramanian focussed on the images released by NASA’s LRO Camera.

Comparing the images of the lunar surface before and after September seven, Subramanian found some disturbances and differences. “Is this Vikram lander? (1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?" he had tweeted on October three and tagged Indian space agency

ISRO and NASA. Subsequently, on November 17 Subramanian also posted two pictures of the lunar surface and said: “This might be Vikram lander's crash site (Lat:-70.8552 Lon:21.71233) and the ejecta that was thrown out of it might have landed over here.”

He had tweeted the pictures of lunar surface taken on July 16 and the one taken on September 17.

After his graduation, he joined IT company Cognizant and later joined Lennox India. (UNI)