Our orbiter located Vikram lander first: ISRO chief Sivan rejects Nasa claim on Chandrayaan 2
Bengaluru: Who found the ‘dead’ Vikram on the Moon first? A new row has erupted between a young scientist with sharp eyes and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Nearly after three months of the frantic search for the Moon lander Vikram, 33-year old Shanmuga Subramanian (Shan), a mechanical engineer and computer programmer from Chennai, has been able to pinpoint the debris of Chandrayaan-2’s lander on the Moon by using Nasa’s lunar images.
Instead of admitting the finding, Isro chairman K Sivan said in Ajmer that the space agency had earlier announced about its orbiter finding Vikram. “One can see on our website that our own orbiter has already identified the crashed lander on the moon,” he said.
However, unlike Shan’s findings, the Isro post on its website on September 10 just says “Vikram lander has been located by the orbiter of Chandrayaan-2, but no communication with it yet.” It does not locate where exactly the lander was with images.
Nasa has confirmed the finding of Shan, though it was mum on Isro’s claims.
Confirming Shan’s find, Nasa tweeted: “The Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander has been found by our Nasa Moon mission. See the first mosaic of the impact site.”
While Isro’s announcement lacked details, Shan used loads of images captured by Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and compared them for days to locate the lander debris.
“When Nasa was not able to find Vikram, it was a challenge for me. I did go through lots of images. I spent four days going through images for at least seven hours every day. I am elated that I did what Isro and Nasa could not,” Shan told TV channels.
Shan said, “I searched for the path that the lander would have followed. I took telemetry data from Nasa’s live broadcast like what was the last location of the lander and how much distance it was from there. Then I searched for a 2kmx2km area.”
What Shan found astounded him. He found a tiny dot which he compared with some previous images of the area.
“I was able to pinpoint something which was out of the ordinary from there and looked like debris. I tweeted first to Nasa as well as to Isro. Then I sent emails to a couple of Nasa scientists who replied saying it was indeed Vikram debris,” he said.
Shan looped Nasa in his October 3 tweet wondering “Is this Vikram lander? (1km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?” On October 18, he emailed Nasa about his findings. Nasa went through their data for 46 days to confirm the finding.
“Green dots indicate spacecraft debris. Blue dots locate disturbed soil, likely were small bits of the spacecraft churned up the regolith (moon soil). ‘S’ indicates debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian,” the Nasa statement read. The debris is about 750m northwest of the crash site.
Shan’s findings with images show that Vikram broke into pieces after crash-landing and the debris scattered over a small area on the Moon’s surface.