India’s first lunar probe — the Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft — which was considered lost has been found orbiting the Moon by NASA scientists.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, almost a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.
Now, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California have successfully located the spacecraft still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface.
Scientists have been able to detect NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar.
The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is very small, a cube about 1.5 metres on each side — about half the size of a smart car.
To find a spacecraft 380,000 km away, JPL’s team used NASA’s 70-metre antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California to send out a powerful beam of microwaves directed towards the Moon.
Chandrayaan operated for 312 days as opposed to the intended two years but the mission achieved 95 per cent of its planned objectives.
Among its many achievements, the greatest achievement was the discovery of the widespread presence of water molecules in the lunar soil.