Technology

Millennial Engineer Helps NASA Find Vikram Lunar Crash Site

Vikram lander impact point and associated debris field (via NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered the crash site of the Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Moon lander.

With the help of Shanmuga Subramanian, a 33-year-old engineer from Chennai.

Armed with a laptop and an Internet connection (and a lot of free time), Subramanian worked for up to seven hours a day to locate the lander, according to NDTV.

Vikram attempted to touch down on the Moon’s surface—some 370 miles from the lunar south pole—in early September.

But things took a turn for the worst when the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lost contact with the vehicle shortly before arrival.

“Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement,” NASA said in a news release.

The US space administration’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team worked with ISRO to search for signs of Vikram: LROC released a mosaic of the site, encouraging the public to have a look.

Subramanian was the first to successfully spot the site, tweeting on Oct. 3: “Is this Vikram lander?”

More than a month later, after two additional LROC image sequences were published, the app developer and blogger again proffered Vikram’s possible crash site, highlighting nearby “ejecta that was thrown out of it.”

After receiving Subramanian’s tip, the LROC team confirmed his identification by comparing before and after images.

The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 2,460 feet northwest of the main crash site.

Had Vikram nailed its soft landing, it would have deployed the AI-powered Pragyan rover, intended to collect chemical and mineral samples from the lunar surface.

When the lander crashed and communication was lost, the rover could not be deployed.

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