Lost & found after 7 years: Chandrayaan-1 spotted orbiting moon

The Indian spacecraft, Polar Sattelite Launch Vehicle -C11 (PSLV) takes off carring India's first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, around 110KM north of southern Indian city of Chennai on October 22, 2008. Over a two-year period, it was meant to survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and three-dimensional topography.

However, JPL was recently trying out new ways to find objects in space and it thought that due to its small size the lost Chandrayaan-1 was a ideal test candidate that would allow it to truly test its new techniques.

"Finding Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because last contact with the spacecraft was in August 2009", Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and principal investigator of the test project, said in a JPL media release.

The researchers were skeptical about the technique's success, as it is normally used to detect asteroids that are several million miles from Earth.

Hunting down LRO and rediscovering Chandrayaan-1 spell a new way to track astronauts from the ground. The agency has now done it again, locating an Indian spacecraft that lost contact with the Earth almost eight years ago.

NASA has announced that a new radar technique has enabled it to find a pair of lunar spacecraft in orbit around the moon, one that is active and another that is dormant. They used this radar to pinpoint the location of Nasa's own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), but this was easy as they had precise orbital data for the LRO.


The cube-shaped Chandrayaan-1, roughly half the size of a Smart vehicle, was discovered orbiting the moon 124 miles above the surface.

According to researchers, Chandrayaan-1 proved to be the flawless target for demonstrating the capability of this technique.

Faced with the immensity of space, optical telescopes and interplanetary radar have difficulty detecting objects, even more so when they are extremely small and close to the Moon. It is what happened to Chandryaan-1: with its cube shape and its sides of a meter and a half, it was until then untraceable.

DSS-14 is NASA's 230-foot antenna located at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The orbiter was inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008 and was expected to remain operational until at least 2010.

Over the next three months, the group listened to the radar "echoes" bounced back by the spacecraft, which were received by NASA's 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, along with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. It had found the evidence of water ice on the moon's surface. All interplanetary radars use microwaves, but not all of them are developed equally.

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