NASA Locates First Indian Spacecraft that Has Been Missing Circa 2009, Fortifies Space Navigation DriveBy Earl Hemmingway, UniversityHerald Reporter
NASA has successfully located two unmanned spacecraft last Thursday, Mar. 9. The said space probes were Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO]. Through the ground-based interplanetary radar, NASA's navigation team easily found out where these tiny probes' orbit location.
According to Space, Chandrayaan-1 was India's first probe to be launched outside the Earth's surface on October 2008 then it went on to study the moon. However, the 5-foot-wide spacecraft went missing in September 2009. Since then, India was unable to get contact of the missing Chandrayaan-1 until it was located by NASA.
NASA's detection of Chandrayaan-1 is quite noteworthy since it measures half the size of a smart car. Finding a spec of metal within the vast solar system where asteroids and metallic objects float around is ground-breaking for the scientist in NASA.
On the other hand, NASA's interplanetary radar was also able to find out where LRO went missing. The LRO was NASA's still active lunar spacecraft that was launched back in 2009. The finding of LRO was relatively easy unlike for Chandrayaan-1, NASA added.
NASA started the operation back in July 2016 where researchers used NASA's the 230-foot antenna in Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, California. They sent out beam microwaves toward the moon and studied the radar "echoes" that bounced back to Earth by means of a330-foot Green Bank Telescope. Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory made their follow-up observations using a 1,000-foot-wide radar dish.
NASA researchers were doubtful that the world's most powerful radars will be able to detect such object as small as the Chandrayaan-1 lost within the far distance of the moon from the Earth. In the end, Chandrayaan-1 has proven them wrong and raise the bar for such technique. The technique has commonly been used to detect and characterize asteroids and now it will surely fortify the studies of space navigation.