Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

A Lost Lunar Spaceship Found by NASA's Radar Technique

Chandrayaan-1’s orbit profile. But after a few more trips around the moon who knows where it might have gotten Chandrayaan-1’s orbit profile. But after a few more trips around the moon who knows where it might have gotten
Garry Little | 11 March, 2017, 00:16

Much like George Clooney in Gravity, sometimes, spacecrafts meet unfortunate fates-they get lost in space, and are nearly always victims of the final frontier. It was launched with tremendous fanfare, and then it vanished.

DSS-14 - NASA's 70-meter antenna which found Chandyaan-1.

NASA on Thursday has located 2 unmanned spacecraft orbiting the moon, including India's Chandrayaan-1, which went quiet in 2009.

Astronomers were able to spot two lost lunar spaceships by using NASA's radar technique.

Now, scientists at NASA have successfully located the spacecraft still circling some 200 kilometres above the lunar surface.Finding the spacecraft required some "detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was on August 29, 2009", said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist in Californiai.The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is very small, a cube about 1.5 meters on each side - about the size of a Maruti 800.

India had lost radio contact with the spacecraft weeks after key onboard instruments malfunctioned.

"It turns out that we needed to shift the location of Chandrayaan-1 by about 180 degrees, or half a cycle from the old orbital estimates from 2009", said Ryan Park, the manager of JPL's Solar System Dynamics group.

Although the technique has been used before to observe small asteroids several million miles from Earth, researchers were not certain that the radar could detect an object the size of Chandrayaan-1, a small cube spacecraft about 1.5 meters on each side - about half the size of a smart auto - in orbit around the Moon. They used this radar to pinpoint the location of Nasa's own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), but this was easy as they had precise orbital data for the LRO. But Chandrayaan-1 was a tricky object to locate in the lunar orbit because of its size. As it turns out, Chandrayaan-1 - which is only the size of a small auto - was on orbit as expected, but on the exact opposite side of the moon they thought it would be. The interplanetary radar was created to detect and analyze small asteroids located several million miles from our planet, but scientists did not expect it to be able to spot such a small spaceship in the orbit of the moon. No one has ever detected the exact position of something that small that far away.

Nasa scientists predicted the orbit of Chandrayaan-1 and targeted the microwave beam in the area where they expected to see the spacecraft. On July 2 previous year, the scientists pointed two antennas, one in California and the other in West Virginia, to a location about 160km above the Moon's north pole.

It is hoped that this new method of object detection using multiple ground-based radar antennas can be put to good use in the future. In addition to its symbolic significance, the mission was made famous after detecting traces of water on the surface of the star.

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