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Lost Indian Spacecraft Found Through New Radar, Space Detective Work

Lost Indian Spacecraft Found Through New Radar, Space Detective Work

The mission shows how various parts of NASA can work together, and the techniques used to find Chandrayaan-1 will only be refined and perfected in the future.

The ISRO lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, nearly a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.

The NASA scientists used a 70-meter antenna at the agency's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, and also the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

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The craft was reportedly located a total of seven times in three months since July 2016.

Of course, the spacecraft itself can't be recovered, it's in lunar orbit after all, but Nasa's findings prove that they have the capability of tracking even tiny spacecraft at great distances from the Earth.

Eight years after it was considered "lost", India's first lunar spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, has been "re-discovered" by Nasa's ground-based radars, the American space agency announced on Friday. The mission consisted of an orbiting spacecraft and a lunar impactor. "But otherwise, Chandrayaan-1's orbit still had the shape and alignment that we expected".

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JPL radar scientist Marina Brozovic said: "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". Objects like Chandrayaan-1 are hard to find because the mountains and other "mass concentrations" on the moon with high gravitational pull can significantly change a spacecraft's orbit.

The Chandrayaan-1 also included an impactor, which was released from the orbiter in November 2008. The interplanetary radar is used to find small asteroids millions of miles from our planet. NASA says this will be essential for "collisional hazard assessment" and for helping spacecraft navigate in the event that they lose communication with the ground or their internal navigation systems. "Detecting Chandrayan-1 was tough because of its diminutive size which is about 1.5m on each side". Apparently, it was easy for the new radar technology to detect LRO because astronomers were working with the navigators of the spacecraft and, thus, they had the correct orbit data where it was located. The moon is decidedly unhealthy for runaway satellites and it has regions of higher than average gravitational pool, that can cause the latter to crash into the surface of the celestial body. 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 organisation said that the technique's success could play a crucial role in future manned and unmanned missions in space.

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