Back in 2009, India’s first lunar orbiter, the Chandrayaan-1 last contacted its handlers. Then it vanished. Now, more than seven years later, NASA has announced that it detected two unmanned spacecraft orbiting the moon, and one of them is India’s lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1. Researchers located the spacecraft using new ground radar.
“We have been able to detect NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO] and the Indian Space Research Organization’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. “Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located.”
The last contact with the lunar orbiter was in August 2009, which made it more of a challenge.
Chandrayaan-1 is a relatively small cubic probe. That made it a perfect aim for the radar experiment driven by a team of Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers.
The researchers were afraid that the interplanetary radar couldn’t detect an even tiny object as far away as the moon. Though it has been used to see small asteroids several million miles from Earth. Also, the moon is filled with regions with high gravitational pull, which could’ve made the spacecraft crash into it.
In the future, scientists could use the technique as a safety mechanism for spacecraft facing communication issues.