India's first unmanned mission to the moon- Chandrayaan 1- which was believed lost, is still orbiting the moon, say NASA scientists.The Chandrayaan-1, which cost $79 million, was launched in 2008 to map the moon's surface and look for precious resources.
Though Prof. Rao and his colleagues anticipated the spacecraft to drift and ultimately crash into lunar surface a couple of years after losing contact, the latest discovery points to the fact that Chandrayaan-I has remain-ed at an orbit 200 km from lunar surface from the time the glitch wrought a premature end to the mission.
Chandrayaan-1 remained lost until now, some eight years later, and ISRO has NASA to thank for finding it again. Too small to be seen with optical telescopes, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft were found by ground-based radar stations using a pioneering radar technique that could help in planning future missions to the Moon. "However, a new technological application of interplanetary radar pioneered by scientists at NASA's JPL can do so,".
However, the Rs 380-crore Chandrayaan-1 mission has always been viewed as a success.
ISRO's mission was concluded before the spacecraft lost contact.
More troubling was that the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is very small, about half the size of a smart vehicle, and about 380,000 kilometers away. "But otherwise, Chandrayaan-1's orbit still had the shape and alignment that we expected".
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These are not easy to find via optical telescopes because they are too small and with the bright glare of the Moon finding these objects is even more hard. The detection team said finding LRO was easy because they had its precise location data.
Scientists used a new ground radar to locate two spacecraft, including the Chandrayaan-1. Using the Green Bank, as well as the antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, NASA was able to pinpoint the exact location of the craft. "Finding India's Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009", the radar scientist said.
The Chandrayaan-1 was at the complete opposite side of the moon than initially thought, they explained. It can detect even small objects in the lunar orbit.
An object with the signature of the small orbiter crossed these signals.
Using a pair of large antennas, one in inland California and another in West Virginia, the JPL team blasted microwaves at areas near the moon where they expected each of a pair of dead satellites would be.