NASA Finds Spacecraft That Was Lost Eight Years Ago

Nevertheless, this new technological application of interplanetary radar developed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California managed to locate a spaceship floating around the moon successfully.

Detecting the spacecraft was only part of the agency's achievements, however, with NASA saying it was also able to track the small spacecraft for a while during its orbit. However searching for derelict spacecraft and space debris in a lunar orbit, at least with optical telescopes, is challenging due to its bright glare.

Now, eight years after it went silent, the Chandrayaan-1 probe has been found. The folks from JPL reached out to the satellite's navigators and gathered the exact orbit data. Then they chose to send microwave beams towards the north pole of the moon using the antenna in the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. "Our first satellite, Arya-bhatta, lasted about 15 years in space", explained Prof Rao. Besides the obvious problem with the amount of time between receiving a signal, the moon doesn't make it easier. These are features were denser material below the surface caused a local bump in gravitational pull. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) made a decision to "find" the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter to test some new tracking hardware that was being developed. The actual goal of the radar is to help discover asteroids and the like, however, it found itself just as capable of discovering a runaway satellite. 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. The probe was the size of a small vehicle.

On July 2, 2016, the team pointed Goldstone and Green Bank at a location 160km above the moon's north pole and waited to see if the Chandrayaan-1 crossed the radar beam. Sure enough it did, and multiple detections over a three month period allowed NASA to confirm the object definitely is Chandrayaan-1.

Using this data, scientists updated the orbital predictions for the silent satellite. But then its calculations showed that Chandrayaan-1 was still in the orbit.

"The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions". The Indian lunar spacecraft was more or less where NASA scientists expected it to be.

This lunar scavenger hunt isn't just fun science. "This new technique could assist planners of future moon missions", a recent NASA report said. The radar may assist in avoiding collision involving spacecrafts if they face communication and navigation issues. However, it seems like Chandrayaan-1 is holding up at the moment.

  • Joey Payne