NASA finds Chandrayaan - 2's Vikram lander debris on Moon, tweets pic

Pablo Tucker
December 3, 2019

But after an email tip from an unlikely source and months of scouring images of the moon's South Pole, NASA confirmed on Monday that India's Vikram Lander has been found. NASA's confirmation came after an Indian computer programmer and mechanical engineer named Shanmuga Subramanian contacted NASA's project after which, the American space agency confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images.

The US space agency released an image taken by its LRO that showed the site of the spacecraft's impact (September 6 in India and September 7 in the US) and the associated debris field, with parts scattered over nearly two dozen locations spanning many kilometres.

"Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with positive identification of debris".


A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field, with parts scattered over nearly two dozen locations spanning several kilometres. "The crash landing of Vikram rekindled an interest in the moon not only for me and others also", he wrote, adding that, "I think even if Vikram had landed and sent some images, but we also would have never had such interest".

The Chandrayaan 2 mission was launched on June 22 and on September 7, ISRO had planned the soft landing of Vikram lander on lunar surface followed by the Rover roll out. Despite the failed soft-landing, getting as close to the surface as Vikram did was an awesome achievement, the agency said.

He said that Subramanian "is totally indpendent of the LRO, totally independent of the Chandraayan 2 team, just someone who is very interested in the Chandraayan 2 mission (who) used our data and identified a spot where there was a change that we had not identified". The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2×2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 metre) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle).


The impact point shows up in this processed image as a group of dark rays with brighter material around it.

That tipoff, plus images with better lighting and resolution taken in mid-October and on November 11, gave LROC specialists the details they needed to map the full scope of the surface changes caused by the hard landing.


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