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This Chennai techie helped NASA find debris of Vikram Lander on Moon

On September 7 this year, even as an entire nation waited with bated breath for the success of India’s own moon mission— Chandrayaan 2 — the Indian Space Research Organisation lost touch with the Vikram lander. The lander, which was meant to touch down on the moon's surface, it was later learned, lost contact due to 'hard braking' in the second phase of its descent. 
 
As anticipation grew on the whereabouts of the lander in the weeks and months since, American space agency NASA was aiding its Indian counterparts look for the lander. And who helped the Americans? Well, Chennai’s own Shanmuga Subramanian, otherwise known to the city’s residents as the man behind the Chennai Rains Live page on Facebook. 
 
An engineering graduate from the Government Engineering College, Tirunelveli, Shanmuga has been working as an IT engineer for 12 years. A mechanical engineer by profession, an avid weather and space enthusiast, his interest in outer space has immensely benefited the public. 
 
His regular updates regarding rains in Chennai with the help of radar data and satellite imagery regularly helps citizens prepare for weather-related eventualities.“I feel very happy that I could find the debris. I kept comparing picture by picture for almost a week and used to do it for seven hours a day,” he said. 
 
Shanmuga Subramanian looked for debris of the Vikram lander on the images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera that the US space agency had released to the public. 
 
In a tweet to the space agency on October 3, Shanmuga Subramanian posted two pictures of the landing site. One was from December 2017 and the other after news of the lander lost contact with ISRO. 
 
He pointed out that no white dot was seen in the old picture of the same spot from December 2017 which indicated that the white dot on the left image is Vikram lander. He even pointed out to the American space scientists that Vikram would only be visible as a dot since the new image was 1.25m per pixel. 
 
Providing them with the coordinates of the crash site, Shanmuga Subramanian presented evidence of the ejecta that may have been thrown out of the lander.
 
He asked, “Is this Vikram lander?  (1 km from the landing spot) Lander might have been buried in Lunar sand?” And it was this clinching evidence, which even the premier space agency overlooked, that helped NASA announce on Tuesday that the Vikram lander had been found.
 
On October 18, he wrote to both ISRO and NASA about this. Though both did not reply to him then, NASA had earlier sent him a mail on October 3 confirming that their satellite went on to investigate the spot that Shanmuga pointed out and they found the debris.
 
“I have always been fascinated with the rockets and rocket launchers. This was a great find for me,” he said. 
 
Shanmuga Subramanian was able to find the debris only because NASA makes most of its data public. He says that even ISRO should do the same. “This is a request to ISRO that they should also put more data in public,” he said
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