Amateur Leads NASA to Crash Site of India’s Vikram Moon Lander

The final resting place of the Vikram Moon lander was discovered by a 33-year-old amateur Shanmuga Subramanian.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

A 33-year-old mechanical engineer from Chennai, India has been credited with locating the final resting place of the Vikram Moon lander. The wreckage of the failed lander was discovered by studying images captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera before and after the crash.

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon was launched on July 22, 2019. Following a successful lunar orbital insertion a month later, the Vikram lander separated from the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft on September 2 on its way to the Moon’s surface.

Initially, the descent appeared to be going according to plan. However, on September 6, during the final powered descent, the lander’s trajectory began to deviate approximately 2.1 kilometers from the surface. Just seconds before it was scheduled to touch down, all telemetry with the lander was lost.

As a result of the loss of telemetry, the exact condition of the lander was unknown promoting an international search for the lander’s final location.

In an effort to speed up the search, NASA released images of the site captured by the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) both before and after the September 6 landing attempt to the public. According to a December 2 NASA press release, 33-year-old amateur Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the agency’s LROC team soon after with a positive identification of debris from the lander.

Once the first piece of debris was identified, NASA captured two subsequent image sequences on October 14 and 15, and November 11. With the new images, researchers were able to identify the impact point and a large debris field spanning one square kilometer.

A before and after image showing the final resting place of the Vikram Moon lander.
The debris field of the failed Vikram Moon lander. The green dots represent debris and the blue disturbed soil. The “S” indicates the debris identified by Shanmuga Subramanian | Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.
Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.