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NASA found Chandrayaan-1, lost in Aug-2009


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, using a new interplanetary radar technology, has found India’s Chandrayaan 1, which has been out of radio connection since August 2009.It is still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface, but it was commonly considered “lost.”

“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,” said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at JPL and chief investigator of the test project, in a press note published by JPL on Thursday.

“Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located. Finding Chandrayaan-1 needed a bit more detective work as the last communication with the spacecraft was in August 2009.”

Optical telescopes are not able to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the moon.

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first moon mission, was launched on October 22, 2008 in Sri hari fort. It was successfully placed in a polar orbit around the moon on November 8, 2008. The Moon Impact Probe was installed on the moon on November 14, 2008, and with this India became the fourth country to touch the moon.

Examining the soil collected by the impact probe, Indian scientists got evidence of the presence of water on the moon. The mission was expected to last for two years; but, after 312 days, it had to be closed, because the station missed track of the spacecraft on August 29, 2009.

Finding a dormant spacecraft around the moon is difficult since its orbital path could have varied over time, or even collapsed on the moon. JPL’s calculations suggest that Chandrayaan-1 is still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface, but it was usually considered “lost.”

As Chandrayaan-1 is in a polar orbit around the moon, the scientists pointed the radar at a location above the moon’s north pole and waited for the satellite to pass the radar beam. “Chandrayaan-1 was predicted to complete one orbit around the moon every 2 hours and 8 minutes. Something that had a radar signature of a small spacecraft did cross the beam twice during four hours of observations, and the timings between detections matched the time it would take Chandrayaan-1 to complete one orbit and return to the same point above the moon’s pole,” the press note said. Seven more examinations over the next three months confirmed that it is indeed Chandrayaan.

India’s second moon mission Chandrayaan-2 is supposed to be launched at the end of 2018.

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