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Mystery of Chandrayaan 2: Vikram lander, Pragyan rover spotted? Techie awaits ISRO, NASA nod on debris lost in space

Shanmuga Subramanian, a Chennai-based techie and space enthusiast who was credited by NASA late last year for spotting the debris of India’s Chandrayaan-2 moon probe – Vikram lander, has come up with his latest find. This time he claims to have possibly spotted the skeleton of the Vikram lander and also the Pragyan rover that might have rolled out onto the lunar surface. The claim is based on a similar method he had employed for the earlier find – by studying and comparing open source moon images shared by NASA. After having written to both ISRO and NASA, he is enthusiastically hoping for the best.

Notably, the Vikram lander had crash-landed near the south pole of the moon and had since been lost. Efforts are on to find the lost space technology on the surface of the moon.

Shanmuga Subramanian told WION that his earlier find was of the debris (perhaps a part of the payload that the Vikram lander was carrying on-board) from the crash landing, as also acknowledged by NASA. But this time around, he’s likely to have located the outer shell of the Vikram lander and also the Pragyan rover which has rolled out onto the lunar surface. He has also tweeted out images of his possible find and mailed them to ISRO and NASA, who would be the best authorities to judge and confirm the possible find.  

1.Debris I found was of Langumir probe from the Vikram lander 2. Debris NASA found might be from other payloads, antenna, retro braking engines, solar panels on side etc., 3. Rover has rolled out from lander & has actually travelled few metres from the surface (2/4)

— Shan (Shanmuga Subramanian) (@Ramanean) August 1, 2020

Since sun is never directly above moon’s surface in that region, it would have been so difficult, the above image was taken on Jan4th, 2020 | The 1st image I tweeted is enlarged version of the below image (4/4)

NASA map link :

— Shan (Shanmuga Subramanian) (@Ramanean) August 1, 2020

When asked about what led him to embark on this tedious search again, he says he was spending the recent weeks trying to locate other debris on the moon such as the first-ever probe sent by the erstwhile Soviet Union. 

“Using an open-source NASA software I’ve been looking at various regions in-depth. The area was around where the earlier debris was spotted was also of particular interest” he told WION. 

He says that the most interesting aspect was a few images clicked by NASA in January, that were made publicly available in May. 

“This image was more illuminated due to the then prevailing lighting conditions in that region and enabled me to spot much more. Generally, that region is poorly lit. My latest find (possibly Vikram lander and Pragyan rover) is around 500-700 meters towards the right of the debris that I located last year” he says. 

The image he has tweeted out has markings that point to the objects that are suspected to be the Vikram lander, the Pragyan rover, and also the possible tracks of the rover. 

Leaving it up to ISRO to confirm, Subramanian suspects that the wheeled rover might have eventually rolled out from the lander after the crash landing.

“Maybe it was pre-programmed to roll out or maybe the lander received ISRO’s command to roll our the rover. The lander and rover may have been communicating back and forth. But, perhaps this could have been a case of one-way communication. While the lander and rover could communicate,  it was perhaps not able to relay the signals back to Earth after the harsh landing” he says. 

WION also got the receipt of Subramanian’s e-mail confirmed from ISRO chairman Dr.K.Sivan. “He has sent us the image and we have shared it with our experts for analysis,” Dr. Sivan told WION. 

India’s second moon-probe Chandrayaan 2 was launched on July 22nd last year and had attempted a moon-landing on September 7th. However, the much-anticipated landing happened to end up in a crash landing, after ISRO lost contact with the Vikram lander, barely at an altitude of 2.1km from the lunar surface.

India is also working on Chandrayaan-3, the country’s third moon probe, and it is expected to be launched sometime in 2021.