Chandrayaan-1: India's first lunar mission lost in space detected orbiting the Moon by NASA radar

Deepak, 10/03/2017
Chandrayaan-1: India

The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, India's first lunar mission and which was generally considered lost, has been detected orbiting the Moon, says NASA.

The discovery was made by NASA scientists with new technological application of interplanetary radar.

In addition to Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, the US space agency also located NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) around the Moon.

"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 NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and principal investigator for the test project.

"Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission's navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located. Finding India's Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009," Brozovic said in a NASA statement on Thursday.

Finding derelict spacecraft and space debris in Earth's orbit can be a technological challenge. Detecting these objects in orbit around Earth's moon is even more difficult. Because optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the Moon.

However, with the new technological application of interplanetary radar, the scientists at JPL successfully located the two spacecraft orbiting the Moon.

The researchers believe that the new technique could assist planners of future Moon missions.

Although the interplanetary radar has been used to observe small asteroids several million miles from Earth, researchers were not certain that an object of this smaller size as far away as the moon could be detected, even with the world's most powerful radars.

Chandrayaan-1 proved the perfect target for demonstrating the capability of this technique, the researchers said.

Chandrayaan-1 was launched successfully on October 22, 2008 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

The spacecraft carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria.

As per ISRO, the satellite has made more than 3400 orbits around the moon until the mission was concluded when the communication with the spacecraft was lost on August 29, 2009.

NASA says hunting down LRO and rediscovering Chandrayaan-1 have provided the start for a unique new capability.

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