NASA locates debris from India moon lander that crashed

Before and after images show the Vikram impact point. Changes to the surface are subtle and are more easily seen in these images than earlier ones. Image NASA  LRO

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 also released a couple of breathtaking photos.

Shanmuga reported what he had found to NASA and scientists working with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's camera, who confirmed his finding and scoured the surrounding area. On October 3, Subramanian, a Chennai-based mechanical engineer, had tagged the twitter handles of Nasa, LRO and ISRO in a tweet, asking, "Is this Vikram lander?". He is an engineering graduate from the Government Engineering College in Tirunelvelli. "NASA has to be 100% sure before they can go public, and that's the reason they waited to confirm it, and even I would have done the same", he added.

"I made a decision to search around 2×2 sq km area around the expected landing coordinates and concentrated my efforts north of landing point, as Vikram approached the (designated) area from the North Pole", he added.

"I narrowed my search to two square kilometres", he told the broadcaster. I got to know the internal landing co-ordinates from some forums and I focused my search in the 1-2 sq km radius. The LRO flew over Vikram's landing site once on September 17 and next on October 14.

In an image released by NASA, the space agency pointed out: "Green dots indicate spacecraft debris [confirmed or likely]". "Is this Vikram lander?" But initial analyses of the images did not reveal an obvious impact scar comparable to the Beresheet lander launched by Israel this year, which crashed in April.

"The crash landing of Vikram rekindled an interest in the moon not only for me and others also", Subramanian wrote in an email to the New York Times.

33- year old Subramaniam was the first person to come up with positive identification. "The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 metres northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic", Nasa said.

"Currently we have to compare it manually (and I) wish someone can do more on that, with NASA's scientists time-crunched for their Moon missions", he added.

Mr Subramanian told New Delhi Television he worked for up to seven hours a day scanning through the lunar images. "Now, I can go to office and tease them back", he said jokingly.

The sleepless nights over the last one-and-a-half months, or about 45 days, appeared to pay off early on Tuesday morning when NASA tweeted confirmation about finding the pieces of the spacecraft Vikram Lander and credited the Chennai engineer for the find.

LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro, to whom Subramanian emailed his finding, told IANS: "The story of this really incredible individual (who) found it, helped us find it, is really awesome".