Almost a decade after it was believed missing, India’s first lunar spacecraft – Chandrayaan-1, has been “re-discovered” by Nasa’s ground-based radars – the American space agency declared on Friday. Chandrayaan-1, was launched on October 22, 2008 and was credited with the first discovery of water on the moon on November 14.
After that, it lost connection with Isro ground stations on August 29, 2009 owing to a technical glitch. It was assumed that it had crashed on the moon.
But after nine years, a new radar technology founded by scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) traced Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Chandrayaan-1.
“This technique could assist planners of future moon missions,” said Nasa. JPL’s orbital calculations showed that Chandrayaan-1 was still rotating 200km above the lunar surface.
“To be declared lost and then found after eight years is a great accomplishment,” said father of India’s moon mission, Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan. “Chandrayaan-1 was our first interplanetary mission and I am delighted that it has been found.”
As per NASA, the main challenge in detecting Chandrayaan-1 was due to its size. The spacecraft is tiny, about half the size of a smart car. To discover the spacecraft 3.80 lakh km away, the JPL squad used its 70-metre antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.