Chennai-based techie Shanmuga Subramanian helps NASA locate impact site and debris of Chandrayaan 2 Vikram Lander


US Space agency NASA has said that its moon mission had been able to locate the impact site and debris of Chandrayaan 2’s Vikram Lander. it also released a couple of breathtaking photos. The photos show the Vikram Lander impact point and associated debris field.

Chandrayaan 2

Green dots in the photo above indicate spacecraft debris (confirmed or likely), while 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 Nov. 11,” said a statement from NASA.

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The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was aiming for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole. Unfortunately, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with Vikram Lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown on 7 September this year.

According to NASA, ‘despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.’ A statement from the US space agency said, “The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired Sept. 17) of the site on Sept. 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 Oct. 14 and 15, and Nov. 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).”

Before and after images show the Vikram impact point. Changes to the surface are subtle and are more easily seen in the ratio image presented above.

The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters 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 2×2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow.

Shanmuga, a Chennai-based techie, told news agency IANS, “It was something challenging as even NASA can’t find out so why can’t we try out? And that’s the thought that led me to search for Vikram lander.” He said that he looked for it on the images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbital (LRO) Camera that the US space agency had released to the public. Shanmuga, who works as a software architect in Chennai, said that he carried out the search in his spare time.


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