The white spot meant Vikram lander for Chennai techie

Perseverance pays off

Shanmuga Subramanian

For many who scoured through a set of pictures posted by Nasa on Indian’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, a dot or white spot in them could have meant nothing. But being an avid space enthusiast, 33-year-old Shanmuga Subramanian knew it was something more than what meets the eye.

Tracking Chandrayaan-II from its inception stage, he spent 40 hours over five days, doing a side-by-side comparison of two images – an old image of the same spot and the new image released by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) – on two different laptops to conclude that the dot or the white spot was indeed the Vikram lander.

The image that Shans, as Shanmuga Subramanian calls himself, worked on was clicked by Nasa on September 17 and was posted on its website on September 29. From September 29 to October 3, Shans literally burnt the midnight oil to research on the white spot. The job wasn’t easy as the images released by Nasa weren’t of high resolution.

“When I zoomed in on a particular picture, I had an inkling that it could be the debris of Vikram lander. I knew the intended landing location of the lander. Taking a cue, I kept working six to eight hours a day for five days by zooming in further on the image,” Shans, a software engineer, told DH.

At his modest apartment in upscale Besant Nagar here, Shans was on Tuesday swamped by journalists who flocked to record his experience. His phone was put on busy mode.

“Thanks to the public data that was available, I could compare the new picture with the old ones by going through block by block. Fifteen days after putting out the tweet, I wrote to Nasa formally on October 18, explaining my findings with proof. After over 50 days, I received a reply on Tuesday about the findings, with Nasa crediting me for this feat,” he said.

Shans’ friends and colleagues knew that he was working on finding the Vikram lander after work hours. “They never believed me and, in fact, made fun of me. Today, I think, it is my turn to make fun of them,” Shans said with a chuckle.

Though he did BE (Mechanical Engineering) from the Government Engineering College in Tirunelveli, this Madurai-born youth took up a job at a software firm here.

A modest Shans said his findings were nothing when compared to the “huge work” done by Isro by sending a second unmanned mission. “This would help Isro plan the Chandrayaan-3 with much more precision and achieve our ultimate aim,” he said, adding none from Isro had contacted him so far.

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