Chennai engineer helps find Vikram Lander debris

Shanmuga Subramanian

Chennai: Three months after India’s ambitious mission made a hard landing near the uncharted lunar south pole, an engineer from the city, Shanmuga Subramanian (33) also known as ‘Shan’ found the debris of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram Lander.

Shanmuga used lunar images from NASA’s Moon’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and studied them to locate the debris. He spent hours looking at the images on his laptop and located it 750 meters northwest of the main crash site. Subsequently, he wrote to NASA informing about his findings.

A mechanical engineer and a computer programmer, he works as a technical architect at an engineering company, Lennox India Technology Centre, in Chennai. He is said to have made India’s greatest space discovery of the lander.

NASA’s deputy project scientist (LRO Mission), John Keller, wrote an email to him recognising his role and contribution to the project.

”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,” NASA said in a statement.

”Shanmuga contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images,” reports said.

It maybe noted that on 26 September, NASA released a mosaic image (taken on 17 September) of the site and asked the public to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander.

A space enthusiast who was never miss a launch said it was NASA’s inability to find the lander on its own had sparked his interest.

”I had side-by-side comparison of those two images on two of my laptops… on one side there was the old image, and another side there was the new image released by NASA,” he told a news agency, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users.

A native of Madurai, he earlier worked as a programme analyst at Cognizant. India had expected to make space history with the Rs 1,000-crore Chandrayaan 2 mission, but it crashed and lost contact with Earth.