Vikram lander of the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2, which crashed on its final approach to the Moon's surface in September, has been found and the credit goes to a Chennai-based engineer named Shanmuga Subramanian. The 33-year-old was the one to guide NASA to the spot where the Vikram lander had crashed.
On September 7, ISRO attempted a soft landing of Vikram on the uncharted lunar south pole, before losing communication with the lander. Days after the crash landing, ISRO said it had located the lander, but hadn't been able to establish communication.
However, NASA on Tuesday made the announcement releasing an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft's impact. In a statement, NASA said it released a mosaic image of the site on September 26, inviting the public to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander.
The US space agency further added that a person named Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris—with the first piece found about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site.
Talking to the news agency AFP, Shanmuga Subramanian said that NASA’s inability to find the lander on its own had sparked his interest. "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," Subramanian told AFP, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users.
"It was quite hard, but (I) spent some effort," said the 33-year-old. He announced his discovery on Twitter on October 3.
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NASA then performed additional searches in the area and officially announced the finding almost two months later.
“Subramanian is totally indpendent of the LRO, totally independent of the Chandraayan 2 team, just someone who is very interested in the Chandraayan 2 mission (who) used our data and identified a spot where there was a change that we had not identified," NASA's Noah Petro told news agency IANS. "He went through the image, looking pixel by pixel and found that spot," Petro added.
It is worth mentioning here that on September 7, the ISRO’s ambitions to touch down the south pole of the Moon faced a technical glitch after the space agency lost contact from Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander moments before landing on lunar surface. As soon as the fine braking phase started, the Vikram lander suddenly deviated from its path and stopped sending data back to the ground control.
Launched on July 22, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Moon's orbit on 20 August, a month after take-off. The touchdown of Vikram lander was scheduled between 1:30 am and 2:30 am, followed by the rollout of its rover named ‘Pragyaan’ between 5:30 AM and 6.30 AM.
Meanwhile, latest reports say that the agency is preparing for Chandrayaan-3 to land on Moon by November next year. ISRO officials had told News Nation that no final decision has been taken yet and various things are under discussion. However, what gives credence to the November, 2020 launch date is the fact that ISRO officials said that the agency will be ready for another Moon Mission ‘by the end of 2020.’
Chandrayaan 3 will be part of ISRO’s crucial lunar operations. It all started in 2008 when Chandrayaan 1 successfully dropped ‘Moon Impact Probe’ on the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite. Chandrayaan 2, instead of a planned soft landing, went for a hard landing and landed Vikram lander on the lunar surface. News Nation is also privy to information that within ISRO, some senior scientists are not with the decision to go for launch in November.