Meet Shanmuga Subramanian, the techie who found Vikram on Moon
03 Dec 2019
On December 3, India woke up to the news of Vikram Lander of Chandrayaan-2 being discovered on the Moon.
The announcement came from NASA with images highlighting the Lander's debris on the lunar surface.
The interesting part is NASA couldn't have done this without the help of Shanmuga Subramanian, the Chennai-based techie who provided the first tip about its whereabouts.
Here's more about him.
Vikram went incommunicado on September 7
ISRO attempted to land Vikram in the early hours of September 7, but due to some reason, the craft went incommunicado during descent, landing to an unknown fate.
The incident fanned a wave of unverified reports, but ISRO eventually confirmed that the craft had hard-landed about 500 meters from the site. The agency even sought help from NASA to locate the lost contraption.
NASA's Moon orbiter photographed the landing site multiple times
Following the failed landing, NASA flew its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site to help locate Vikram.
The agency conducted multiple flybys, with the earliest one being conducted on September 17 and the subsequent ones on October 14 and 15, and on November 11.
It released the photographic data from the flybys to the public, calling people to help spot Vikram.
This is where Shanmuga Subramanian came in
When NASA released the first set of images, Shanmuga Subramanian, who hails from Madurai and works as a technical architect at engineering company Lennox India Technology Centre, compared them with shots taken before the landing.
Working alone, the 33-year-old identified the first sign of debris, a tiny white dot, resulting from the crash-landing of Vikram and informed NASA and LRO camera team about it.
The techie made the discovery in 'his spare time'
Subramanian said he searched for Vikram in his spare time but also received help from users on Twitter and Reddit.
"I had a 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 news agency AFP while detailing his effort.
Then, NASA used his finding to confirm Vikram's location
On receiving Subramanian's tip, NASA analyzed pinpointed location in better-lit images and confirmed the crash site/debris; they even marked the techie's finding with an 'S'.
"The story of this really amazing individual (who) found it, helped us find it, is really awesome," LRO's Noah Petro said while praising Subramanian, and adding that "he went through the image, looking pixel-by-pixel and found that spot."
The challenges of the task drove him to find Vikram
"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," Subramanian said after his tip was published by NASA.
"I worked hard tracking the intended path of Vikram Lander," he told NDTV. "It was lots of hard work. I've always had a passion for space science."
More efforts should be made to explore Moon, he says
As Twitter continues to hail Shanmuga for his incredible finding, the techie believes ISRO and other space agencies need to make more effort to explore the Moon's south pole and location of water, which may ultimately help with building a base for deep-space missions.