NASA Discovers Spacecraft Missing for 8 Years

by Edgar Hayes March 11, 2017, 2:48
NASA Discovers Spacecraft Missing for 8 Years

Apart from Chandrayaan-1, the scientists have also located NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter around moon. It had been expected to operate for two years and had been experiencing technical problems before contact was lost.

The JPL team crunched the numbers and figured India's now silent Chandrayaan-1 is still regularly circling the moon 124 miles above its surface.

The second spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, went silent in 2009 and though the specifications of its orbit were well known, finding it was another matter. Finding LRO was less of a challenge and more of a proof of concept; it's an active spacecraft, so precise location data from the mission's navigators guided the search, detection team members said.

The Indian Space Research Organisation was forced to declare their first mission over in 2009 when spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 stopped sending radio signals, according to the International Business Times. Chandrayaan-1 is small - about half the size of a smart auto which makes its detection even more noteworthy. Then they chose to send microwave beams towards the north pole of the moon using the antenna in the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.

NASA uses giant radar dishes to detect things like asteroids millions of miles away, and it's pretty easy to track satellites in Earth's orbit, but there are awkward middle distances that aren't so easy to monitor.

"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. However, it seems like Chandrayaan-1 is holding up at the moment.

Chandrayaan-1's orbit profile. But after a few more trips around the moon, who knows where it might have gotten to? This is especially hard as Moon has places with a high gravitational pull which have the ability to distort the orbits of spacecraft. The difficulties were further compounded by the fact that Chandrayaan-1 is kind of small by the perspective of satellites - somewhere around the size of a Maruti 800 vehicle.

Hunting down LRO and rediscovering Chandrayaan-1 spell a new way to track astronauts from the ground. Chandrayaan-1 was precisely located by NASA, the agency said in a statement published on its website, Thursday. Seven more readings over the next three months confirmed that it is indeed Chandrayaan. But thanks to a new interplanetary radar technique NASA just found two old space probes - one of which hadn't been seen since 2009. Radar echoes then bounced back from the moon's orbit and were received by the 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.


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