Shanmuga Subramanian, a tech whiz, and a space enthusiast, has claimed that the Pragyan rover from Chandrayaan-2, ISRO’s moon mission, is still intact on the moon’s surface and has just rolled a few metres away from the lander.
In a series of tweets, Subramanian said, “Chandrayaan-2’s Pragyan “ROVER” intact on Moon’s surface and has rolled out few metres from the skeleton Vikram lander whose payloads got disintegrated due to rough landing.”
“We have received communication from him (Subramanian). Our experts are analysing the same,” said ISRO Chairman K Sivaraman.
According to Subramaniam, “It seems the commands were sent to the lander blindly for days & there is a distinct possibility that the lander could have received commands and relayed it to the rover… but the lander was not able to communicate it back to the earth,”
Subramanyam had previously found Indian moonlander Vikram’s debris, and NASA had given credit to Subramanian. They also sent him an e-mail detailing how his discovery had assisted the LROC, or Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team to find the primary impact zone.
Shanmugam also tweeted a picture taken by the LROC, and said that the white dot might be the skeleton lander devoid of other payloads and the black dot might be the rover.
According to him, the rover may be still intact on the moon’s surface. LRO pictures from Jan 4, 2020, show rover tracks on the moon. Subramaniam’s debris might be from one of the payloads, while the debris found by NASA might be of other payloads, transmitting antenna or thrusters.
Speaking to a news portal, Subramanian said “There are many possibilities on how it could have been intact, as it was bolted to the Lander, and could have survived the harsh rough landing.” He’s still waiting for official clarification from ISRO though.
He also confirmed that he does not know if the rover is functioning in an optimal manner, or not. Speaking about his method of finding the tracks of the rover, he said :”I downloaded EDR images from NASA’s LRO quickmap site and used USGS ISIS3 open source software and processed it further to enlarge these images. And in the enlarged image we can find tracks of the rover.”
Vikram lost contact with ISRO on September 6 last year when it tried to make a soft landing near the moon’s south pole, after detaching from the Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter satellite.
It was on July 22, 2019, a GSLV rocket, nicknamed ‘Bahubali’, blasted off into space carrying Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter Vikram (lander) and Pragyan (rover).