Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1 which was considered lost, is still orbiting the moon. They also have found NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
The ISRO lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, almost a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008. The unmanned spacecraft is still circling some 200 km in the polar orbit around the moon
How these probes were discovered?
Both space probes were discovered using JPL’s new ground-based radar technique by sending out a powerful beam of microwaves towards the moon. The beams were produced using 70-metre antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The radar echoes bounced back from lunar orbit were received by the 100-metre Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
- The LRO was easily discovered as scientists were working with the mission’s navigators had precise orbit data.
- But finding of Chandrayaan-1, very small and cuboid in shape, about 1.5 metres in length on each side was little bit difficult as ISRO had last contact with it.
- Even finding a derelict spacecraft at lunar distance that has not been tracked for years is tricky because the moon is riddled with
- Mascons are regions with higher-than-average gravitational pull. It is believed that they may had dramatically affected spacecraft’s orbit over time, and even cause it to crashed into the moon.
Chandrayaan 1 after its launch in October 2008 had operated for 312 days, as against the intended two years, but the mission achieved 95% of its planned objectives. It had sent more than 70,000 images of the lunar surface which provided breathtaking views of lunar mountains and craters, especially craters in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon’s polar region.