When Chandrayaan 2’s moon lander had lost contact with ISRO, it had broken a billion Indian hearts. So near, yet so far, the country mourned, as ISRO’s attempts to find the lost lander proved unsuccessful. But one Indian wasn’t going to take a missing lander lying down. He took it into his own hands to locate the spacecraft. Incredibly, he ended up finding it.
Shanmuga Subramanian, a mechanical engineer and a computer programmer who works as a technical architect at engineering company Lennox India Technology Centre in Chennai, has been credited by NASA for finding the missing Chandrayaan lander. Shanmuga, who hails from Madurai and had earlier worked for Cognizant as a programme analyst, used lunar images from Nasa’s Moon’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured on different dates (September 17, October 14, 15 and November 11) and studied them for weeks to locate the debris of the lander.
After he’d made the discovery, Shanmuga wrote to NASA informing it about his findings. His findings were finally confirmed by the American space agency. “Thank you for your email informing us of your discovery of debris from the Vikram lander. The LROC team confirmed that the location does exhibit changes in images taken before and after the date of the landing. Using the information, the LROC team did additional searches in this area and located the site of the primary impact as well as other debris around the impact location and has announced the sighting on the Nasa and ASU pages where you have been given credit for your observation,” Nasa’s deputy project scientist (LRO mission) John Keller wrote to him.
While announcing that it had found the lander, NASA acknowledged Shanmuga’s contribution in its press release. “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,” the press release said. And Shanmuga also got his place in history. In the image where NASA identifies the debris of the lander, the part that was discovered by the Indian techie was labeled S, after his initial. “”S” indicates debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian,” wrote NASA.
Subramanian said he worked for up to seven hours every day in his Chennai apartment in his mission to locate the lander using only his laptop. “I narrowed my search to 2 square kilometres. I used only a laptop and searched all the images,” he said.