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The Chennai techie who helped NASA find debris of Vikram Lander


Chennai, Dec 03: NASA has credited a Chennai techie for finding the debris of Vikram Lander.

The Vikram lander that crashed on the lunar surface was found by a NASA satellite orbiting the moon. The US space agency released an image taken by its Lunar Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact. The images also showed the associated debris field.

Shanmuga Subramanian

The parts scattered over almost 24 locations spanning several kilometres can also be seen in the image released by NASA. The #Chandrayaan2 Vikram lander has been found by our @NASAMoon mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. See the first mosaic of the impact site, NASA said in a tweet.

NASA finds crashed Vikram Lander: See image

NASA added that a person named Shanmuga Subramanian had contacted the LRO project with positive identification debris and the first piece was found around 750 metres northwest of the main crash site.

Subramanian (Shan) works as a mechanical engineer and computer programmer at Lennox India Technology Centre in Chennai. He hails from Madurai and had worked for Cognizant as a programme analyst. He used lunar images from the LRO which were captured on different dates between September 17 and October 14, 15 and November 11.

He then studied them for weeks to locate the debris.

Following the discovery, he wrote to NASA informing it about his findings. The agency took some time to confirm the same. Finally it was authenticated and NASA's deputy project scientist scientist (LRO) John Keller wrote to him.

In the letter Keller said, "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."

"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," Keller further wrote.

Chandrayaan-2, a follow-on mission to the Chandrayaan-1 mission undertaken more than a decade ago, comprised an orbiter, lander (Vikram) and rover (Pragyan).

The orbiter carries eight scientific payloads for mapping the lunar surface and study the exosphere (outer atmosphere) of the Moon.

ISRO on September 2 successfully carried out the separation of lander Vikram (with rover Pragyan housed inside) from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter.

The Vikram module, which was supposed to carry out various tests on the lunar soil, had completed the rough braking phase as planned and entered the phase of fine braking at an altitude of 2.1 km, when it lost communication.

'Vikram', named after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Programme, was designed to execute a soft-landing on the lunar surface, and to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 earth days.

The rover was to roll down from the lander explore the surrounding lunar terrain, a few hours after the planned soft-landing.

The Chandrayaan-2 is a Rs 978-crore unmanned moon mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore).

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully launched the 3,840-kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into the Earth's orbit on July 22.

The spacecraft began its journey towards the moon leaving the earth's orbit in the dark hours on August 14, after a crucial manoeuver called Trans Lunar Insertion that was carried out by ISRO to place the spacecraft on "Lunar Transfer Trajectory."

The spacecraft successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20 by performing Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuver.

On September 2, 'Vikram' successfully separated from the orbiter, following which two de-orbiting manoeuvres were performed to bring the lander closer to the Moon.

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