India made history back in 2008 when ISRO launched the first unmanned lunar spacecraft, the Chandrayaan 1. When it was launched in October 2008, the mission was supposed to be operational for 2 years, but then it vanished. On August 29, 2009, the communication was abruptly lost. Now, after 8 years, US’ space agency NASA has found the Chandrayaan 1. According to NASA, the scientists used a ground radar to find the spacecraft. The Chandrayaan-1 has been located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. NASA also managed to detect its own spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). While the latter was an active one, Chandrayaan was a difficult bet as the contact with it had been lost for almost a decade now.
The discovery of Chandrayaan is even more of an achievement because it is a very small spacecraft. It is essentially a small cube “about five feet (1.5 meters) on each side, almost half the size of a smart car.” The radars have been used by scientists to locate distant asteroids still, there was a doubt about finding the Chindrayaan which is almost as far as the Moon. This is especially difficult as Moon has places with a high gravitational pull which have the ability to distort the orbits of spacecraft. This radar tech will help space agencies for future missions, as optical telescopes do not help much, in finding small objects as the reflection on the Moon is too high.
ISRO said that the Chandrayaan-1″ kilometres made more than 3400 orbits around the moon and the mission was concluded when the communication with the spacecraft was lost on August 29, 2009″. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was testing its features and Chandrayaan was a perfect choice. JPL reportedly said, “Optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the moon. However, a new technological application of interplanetary radar pioneered by scientists at NASA’s JPL can do so.”
Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, “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.”
Meanwhile, according to JPL’s orbital calculations, the Chandrayaan-1 is still circling some 124 mkilometres) above the lunar surface, but it was generally considered “lost.”