Shanmuga Subramanian, 33, is on cloud nine after being credited by NASA with locating the debris of ISRO’s Vikram Lander, which crashed on the Moon’s surface on September 7. Vikram Lander was India’s first moonlander, and carried Pragyan, India’s first moonrover. Neither the American space agency nor ISRO were able to pinpoint the location of the crash. In an interview with BusinessLine, Subramanian, a techie and weather enthusiast who anchors the Chennai Rains Live page on Facebook, said that while Space is a passion, his bigger goal is to do something good for society using information technology. Excerpts from the interview:
How did you feel when the Vikram Lander crashed?
I thought Vikram will actually land on the moon’s surface and beam images back. But, unfortunately, this did not happen. But, we should be proud of the fact that we are the only country in the world to have attempted to land on the moon's South pole. Though Vikram Lander crashed, we should not criticise ISRO because whatever they attempted with a limited budget is commendable.
When NASA acknowledged your discovery, what was your first reaction?
I did expect this because I sent a tweet on October 3 followed by a mail on October 18 with all the old and new images. I knew that NASA may take a good amount of time because they had to confirm things. They confirmed it after nearly 45 days because they had to be absolutely sure. There was no surprise but the media frenzy was unexpected.
What’s your view on ISRO chief K Sivan’s reaction to your discovery, saying that ISRO had already located the debris much earlier?
I am not in a position to comment on this. I will only say that I have been watching ISRO’s rocket launches from childhood and that’s what got me interested in all these rockets. Whatever I am doing is because of ISRO alone.
How long have you been tracking developments in Space?
I have been tracking rocket launches right from childhood and was keenly observing ISRO’s PSLV and GSLV launches. I tracked information on how various stages separate after launch; and what other space agencies such as NASA were doing in their programmes. This interest continued in my college days and became vigorous while working in the IT industry. It was interesting to see what NASA was doing with its Curiosity Rover on Mars and to track the developments around Chandrayaan I and II.
If so, why did you choose to be in the IT profession, and not in rocket science?
I was in two minds. I am a mechanical engineer with an interest in the IT field, which will help me to do more for people. IT can help me in changing the lives of people. Apart from my 9-5 routine, I have also created websites and apps for Tsunami alerts. I even got a mail of appreciation from a fisherman thanking me for sending a Tsunami alert. I keep my Facebook page Chennairains updated after looking at various data. Some of my apps have been reviewed by top technology sites. I have been doing something out of the ordinary. The discovery of Vikram Lander was also out of the ordinary, I would say.
How has your family reacted to your discovery?
They are very happy on the discovery and me being in the limelight.
What’s your next plan?
Life's a journey. Let me take it as it comes. As of now, my goals are to do something that would change the lives of people. For example, with Tsunami alerts.