Bhaskar Interview/ Shanmuga Subramanian, who found Chandrayaan-2’s lander Vikram, said – checked all pixels for 6 hours daily for 16 days, then debris was seen

  • Shanmuga Subramanian, a resident of Chennai is a mechanical engineer
  • Shanmuga discovered Vikram Lander’s debris when he saw a shining spot in the image
  • On 7 September, the Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram crash-landed at the South Pole of the Moon

New Delhi: US space agency NASA has found the debris of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram Lander. NASA released pictures of the surface about 600 kilometers from the moon’s south pole on Tuesday morning. The Vikram Lander of Chandrayaan-2 collided on this spot on 7 September and its pieces spread over an area of ​​about one kilometer. NASA attributed the discovery to 33-year-old mechanical engineer Shanmuga Subramanian (Shan) from Chennai. Bhaskar talked with Shanmuga about his discovery:

Shanmuga saw the mail from NASA at 4 am: On Tuesday, Shanmuga’s day began with an e-mail from NASA. He saw this email at around 4 am. An e-mail was sent to Shan by John Keller, the deputy project scientist at NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission (LRO).

In this, NASA wrote to thank Shan for informing about finding Vikram Lander wreck. “The LRO team has confirmed your discovery, ” the mail said. “After you gave the information, our team investigated the location and then found the spot where the lander collided with the lunar surface and the pieces scattered around it. NASA owes this to you. Surely you would have had to spend a lot of time and effort on this quest. While I apologize for the delay in contacting you about this, more time was needed to ensure everything. Now the press will ask you about this discovery.’

Shanmuga was very happy after reading this e-mail. Shanmuga Subramanian immediately tweeted a letter from NASA on his Twitter account and added it to his status on the Twitter handle – ‘I Found Vikram Lander’.

Spent many nights probing a picture of impact site shared by NASA: Shanmuga Subramanian said that he spent many nights probing a picture of the impact site shared by US space agency Nasa.

‘Crash landing of Vikram lander made more people interested in moon mission’: Shanmuga believes that the crash landing of Vikram lander made more people interested in the moon mission. “I don’t think Vikram lander would have made such an impact on minds of Indian public if it had landed successfully,” he said.

The 33-year-old information technology (IT) professional said the crash landing certainly got him interested. “I got hooked and started comparing Nasa’s picture to previous ones every night,” he said.

‘Scanned pics for 16 days then spotted a shining point’: Shanmuga says, “From September 17 to the beginning of October, every day I used to scan images at night for about 4 to 6 hours daily. I saw a white dot about 750 meters away from the proposed landing site which was not there in the photo before the scheduled landing date. It had more brightness. Then on 3 October, I came to know that it is a piece of Vikram. I tweeted that maybe Vikram is buried in the soil of the moon at this place. I sent the same information to some NASA scientists on a detailed e-mail with the coordinates of the lunar surface.”

Shanmuga zeroed in on 2 sq km around the landing area: Shanmuga said on September 17, NASA released a picture of the location. It was 1.5 GB. I downloaded it. In the beginning, when I started filtering randomly, I repeatedly thought that it (Vikram lander’s debris) was here or there, but that was not right, because what I thought was the lander could have in fact been a boulder. Later I scanned pixel by pixel of about 2 sq km potential areawhere the Lander could have crashed. 

Shanmuga said he was interested in space missions since childhood and never missed a rocket launch.

To find the location of Vikram lander, he also went through Isro’s live images and zeroed in on 2 sq km around the landing area.

‘Found a tiny little dot’: “I searched around the north of the landing spot and found a tiny little dot. When I compared it to LRO images of the site from the last 9 years, the debris was located and I reached out to NASA,” Shanmuga said.

Nasa performed additional searches: Nasa performed additional searches in the area and went through the better lit images of the site that they acquired during its flyover on October 14 and November 11.

The official announcement by Nasa on Shanmuga’s finding came almost two months later.

“Before going public they [Nasa] need to be 100% sure so was waiting for the confirmation and eventually got it today,” Subramanian said.

(Aniruddh Sharma from New Delhi)