Indian amateur scientist receives laurels for finding Vikram debris

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CHENNAI: Shanmugam Subramanian, a techie from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, has started receiving laurels from across the world after he identified the debris of Vikram Lander of Chandrayan 2 that even NASA failed to find.

Twitter is now abuzz with news of Subramanian's extraordinary find, but he humbly attributes the discovery to Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LRO) data, without which he couldn’t have done this. 

A simple thought why can’t he try to find the lander that even NASA couldn’t find drove the 33-year-old mechanical engineer to the challenging task. Subramaniam, who was working for an IT firm in Chennai, had only the pictures beamed by NASA and the ISRO to hunt for Vikram. 

Shanmugham, who was interested in space missions since childhood and never missed a rocket launch, made best use of its. According to an India Today report he spent hours every night, scouring the Nasa images of the lunar surface for debris. 

In early October he was convinced he had found the right spot; he had compared the current photo with previous images from a nine-year period. After that, "I was just waiting for the confirmation from Nasa," India Today quoted him as saying. 

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

“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,” Shanmugham said. 

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

The official announcement by Nasa on Shanmugham’s finding came almost two months later. “Before going public Nasa needed to be 100% sure so was waiting for the confirmation and eventually got it today,” Subramanian said. 

NASA has updated two photos of the area where Vikram fell. Before the collapse of Vikram, the images show the changes that have taken place on the lunar surface. Vikram's landing spot is 600 km away from NASA's moon view. 

Vikram crashed in early September, having gone incommunicado during the final stages of a mission that had been poised to make India only the fourth nation in history to land on the moon. 

Subramanian believes that the crash landing of Vikram lander made more people interested on 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 told Hindustan Times. 

Subramanian feels more efforts need to be made to explore the Moon, not least because he feels it could serve as a base for Martian adventures. 

Image Credit: Asian Age 

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