- The lander had lost contact shortly before scheduled attempt to soft-land
- ISRO had confirmed they had lost all communications with the orbiter
- NASA said debris were first located by Shanmuga Subramanian
Chandrayaan-2's lander Vikram, which crashed while attempting to land on the moon in September, has been found by NASA, and the US space agency has credited a Chennai-based engineer who spent hours comparing before and after images of the landing site.
Indian space agency ISRO had lost contact with the lander shortly before the scheduled attempt to soft-land on the moon on September 7.
NASA said it released a mosaic image of the site on September 26 (but taken on September 17), inviting people to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander. The first person to come up with a positive identification was Shanmuga "Shan" Subramanian, a 33-year-old IT professional, whose Twitter bio now reads: "I found Vikram Lander!".
In a statement, NASA said the "debris first located by Shanmuga Subramanian about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic."
"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 and associated debris field," the statement added.
Shanmuga Subramanian, a space nerd, is excited that his hard work paid off.
"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," Shanmuga Subramanian told Agence France Presse, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users.
"It was lots of hard work, I worked hard tracking the intended path of the lander," he told NDTV. He announced his discovery on Twitter on October 3. NASA performed additional searches and officially announced the finding almost two months later.
Days after the attempt to land on the lunar surface, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) had confirmed that they had lost all communication with the lander. Later, NASA had said the Chandrayaan 2 lander had a "hard landing" and had released pictures of the targeted landing site on the lunar south pole.
The main spacecraft, which remains in orbit around the Moon, dropped the unmanned lander Vikram for a descent that would take five days, but the probe went silent just 2.1 kilometers above the surface.
Vikram and lunar rover Pragyan, which is housed inside the lander, were scheduled to operate for one lunar day (equal to 14 Earth days) and carry out a series of surface and sub-surface experiments.
Chandrayaan 2 was launched on July 22 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, on the back of a GSLV Mark III rocket - ISRO's largest and most powerful. The Rs 1,000-crore mission was originally scheduled to launch on July 15 but that was aborted, with less than an hour remaining, after a technical glitch was discovered.