This 33-year-old techie from Chennai helped end three months of frantic search for the Vikram lander. Shanmuga Subramanian (Shan) is a mechanical engineer and a computer programmer who works as a technical architect at engineering company Lennox India Technology Centre in Chennai.
Used Nasa's images
A space enthusiast, Subramanian found the lander on Moon's south pole by using US space agency Nasa images. The lander had made a hard-landing on Moon's surface during a landing attempt on September 7, 2019.
A Madurai resident
Shanmuga, a Madurai resident, earlier worked for Cognizant as a programme analyst. He used lunar images from Nasa's Moon's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured on different dates (September 17, October 14, 15 and November 11) and studied them for weeks to locate the debris of the lander.
Nasa confirms the find
After making the discovery, Shanmuga wrote to Nasa informing it about his findings for which the US space agency took some time to confirm it. Authenticating his discovery finally, Nasa's deputy project scientist (LRO mission) John Keller wrote to him, "Thank you for your email informing us of your discovery of debris from the Vikram lander. The LROC team confirmed that the location does exhibit changes in images taken before and after the date of the landing. Using the information, the LROC team did additional searches in this area and located the site of the primary impact as well as other debris around the impact location and has announced the sighting on the Nasa and ASU pages where you have been given credit for your observation."
A thank-you note
Wishing Shanmuga for his hard work, Keller further wrote, "Congratulations for what I am sure was a lot of time and effort on your part. We apologise for the delay in getting back to you as we needed to be certain of our interpretation as well as making sure that all stakeholders had an opportunity to comment before we could announce the results".
We have found it
Later, confirming news to the world, Nasa tweeted: "The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander has been found by our NasaMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. See the first mosaic of the impact site." An image of Moon with blue and green dots show the impact point of Vikram and an associated debris field.
Missing since September 7
Isro and Nasa have been looking for the Vikram lander since September 7. In fact, Nasa had used its deep space network antennas in California, Madrid and Canberra to send signals to the Vikram lander with the hope that it would reflect the signals if the lander's systems were working but all the US space agency's efforts went in vain. Finally, it used its orbiter LRO, circling around the Moon, to take images of the south pole region to locate the lander. Isro, too, has been using Chandrayaan-2's functional orbiter, circling Moon at 100km altitude, to scan the landing zone to look for the lander.