India made history when Chandrayaan-1 was launched as first unmanned lunar spacecraft. After 8 years later NASA has located two unmanned spacecraft orbiting the moon one was active and other was dormant, one of them was Chandrayaan-1 which went out of contact with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in August 2009 not transmitting signals.
Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was lurking 200 km above the lunar surface by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.
“We have been able to detect NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar,” Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA and principal investigator for the test project said, according to Hindustan Times.
“Finding India’s Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work. Because the last contact with the spacecraft, in August of 2009,” Ms Brozovic added.
Interplanetary radar has used to see small asteroids several million miles from Earth. But researchers were unsure that it could detect an even smaller object as far away as the moon. It was very difficult and challenging to find the Chandrayaan-1 due to the moon‘s high gravitational pull that change a spacecraft’s orbit. Optical telescopes cannot search for such small objects in the bright glare of the moon light reflecting from the sun.
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NASA Finds Chandrayaan-1 Finds at Moon Orbit
According to NASA, the JPL team used its 70-metre antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California to find the spacecraft 3.80 lakh km away. A powerful beam of microwaves was directed towards the moon. The radar echoes then bounced back from the lunar orbit. It received by the 100-metre Green Bank telescope in West Virginia in the US, NASA said. The team noted the fact that Chandrayaan-1 is in polar orbit around the moon. Hence, it would always cross above lunar poles on each orbit.
On July 2, 2016, the team pointed Goldstone and Green Bank at a location 160km above the moon’s north pole and waited to see if the Chandrayaan-1 crossed the radar beam.
It predicted that the spacecraft would complete one orbit around the moon every two hours and eight minutes approximately. NASA said that the timing of the detections matched the time for Chandrayaan-1 to complete one orbit and return to the same position above the moon’s pole.
However, NASA explained that radar echoes from Chandrayaan-1 obtained seven more times over three months. It were in perfect agreement with the new orbital predictions.
Chandrayaan-1, small 1.5 cubic meter sized spacecraft making its detection even more noteworthy. This new technology is crucial to future moon missions.