Science

NASA Found India's Lost Chandrayaan-1, Orbiting 200km Over Lunar Surface

NASA Found India's Lost Chandrayaan-1, Orbiting 200km Over Lunar Surface

The spacecraft, which was located by scientists at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with the help of a powerful ground-based radar, can not be revived however, given its glitch-hit power system. The spacecraft has been found by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. 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.

Scientists used interplanetary radar to locate the spacecraft, a technology that had previously been used to detects asteroids orbiting millions of kilometres away from earth. Some of the many missions sent to the moon were placed in lunar orbits, and the bright glare from the surface of the moon made it a challenge for optical telescopes to spot them, making it a potential hazard for future lunar missions.

Optical telescopes can not find such small objects because the moon's vast brightness would overwhelm the view of objects passing in front of it. NASA utilized a new ground-based radar technique to locate the lost Chandrayaan-1.

In finding Chandrayaan-1 in deep space, NASA's interplanetary radar scientists have virtually spotted a 1.5 metre-sized cube travelling almost 386,000 km from the earth. This is one of four detections of Chandrayaan-1 from that day. Chandrayaan-1 was in an orbit over both of the moon's poles doing 3D mapping and other imaging processes, pursuing the hunch that one of the two poles would have frozen water hidden in its dusty gray plains. However, it was rather hard to find Chandrayaan-1 spaceship which requested for more attention and detective work because the last contact with it was back in August 2009.

Spotting NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was a piece of cake.

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"It turns out that we needed to shift the location of Chandrayaan-1 by about 180 degrees or half a cycle from the old orbital estimates from 2009", Ryan Park, manager of the JPL's solar system dynamics group, said in the release. That's why astronomers at NASA used the "interplanetary radar" technique to locate the object. Radar echoes then bounced back from the moon's orbit and were received by the 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

Follow-up observations were also conducted with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth, to help track the spacecraft.

The main objectives of the Chandrayaan-1 were to test the impact of a sub-satellite (Moon Impact Probe - MIP) on the surface on the Moon as a fore-runner to future soft-landing missions and also to detect water-ice on the Moon.

On October 22, 2008, Chandrayaan-1 was the first lunar satellite sent by a country of the South, after the Soviet Union, the United States and Europe.


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