NASA has found the debris of the Vikram moon lander and had also mentioned about an 'Indian space enthusiast' who examined pictures of the area of the moon taken by a US orbiting camera. According to the announcement by NASA and the Arizona State University, the site was located by Shanmuga Subramanian, who on his own, scoured the pictures taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbital Camera (LROC).
The first mosaic image of the likely crash site made from pictures taken by the LROC on September 17 was downloaded by several people to look for signs of the Vikram, NASA said. One of them, Subramanian, contacted the LROC project with positive identification of debris, it said.
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? (1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?".
On November 17, he further zeroed in on his observations and tweeted out the possible crash site of the lander.
"This might be Vikram lander's crash site (Lat:-70.8552 Lon:21.71233 ) & the ejecta that was thrown out of it might have landed over here … (The one on the left side was taken on July 16th & one on the right side was from Sept 17)," he said in a tweet accompanying the images.
As it turns out, Subramanian was spot on with his inferences, and now NASA has lauded him for finding the lander.
"NASA has credited me for finding Vikram Lander on Moon's surface VikramLander Chandrayaan2," Subramanian said in another tweet on Tuesday.
"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," said deputy project scientist Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission John Keller.
"Using this information, the LROC team did additional searches in the 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," Keller said.
"I apologise for the delay in getting back to you. We needed to be certain of our interpretation of the observation as well as making sure that all stakeholders had an opportunity to comment before we could announce the results. Congratulations for what i am sure was a lot of time and effort on your part," the scientist in his letter to Subramanian who shared it on Twitter.
Ever since ISRO lost contact with Vikram, NASA had made several attempts to locate the Chandrayaan-2 lander with the help of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The LRO flew over Vikram's landing site once on September 17 and next on October 14.
Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon launched in July. If the spacecraft had reached the surface in one piece on September 7, India would have been only the fourth country to successfully put a lander on the Moon.