MAR 15, 2017 09:25 AM PDT

NASA Finds Lunar Orbiter That Hasn't Been Heard From Since 2009

It’s always a challenge trying to look for objects that are orbiting the moon with optical equipment because the Moon has a highly reflective surface that kicks off a bright glare from the Sun’s light.

On the other hand, interplanetary radar seems to be quite useful for this department. NASA reports that scientists were able to use it to find NASA’s Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO), which is still active today and a long-lost lunar orbiter that was launched by India that hasn’t been heard from since 2009 because it's no longer active.

Using radar technology, NASA has found a lunar orbiter from India that hasn't been heard from in 8 years.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We have been able to detect NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO] and the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar,” said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at JPL and principal investigator for the test project.

“Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located. Finding India’s Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009.”

Chandrayaan-1, which is only about a meter and a half in size. That said, there’s no way optical equipment ever would have been able to find it given the circumstances of the Moon’s highly-reflective surface.

Using data that NASA had on record of Chandrayaan-1’s last-known location, as well as its expected orbit, and altitude, scientists were able to predict where it would end up next. Afterwards, they used NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex located in California to send powerful microwave signals into space towards the Moon.

These microwave signals, which are basically act as powerful radar detectors that can penetrate far into space, bounced off of the Moon’s surface, and the lost Chandrayaan-1’s insignificantly-small surface.

The results of the signals we received back at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico indeed showed that the orbiter was there, but its predicted orbital path needed to be tweaked a bit since the last-known contact in 2009 because of gravitational fluctuations that can cause lunar orbiters to sometimes change their trajectory.

More importantly, the signals were successful in detecting something the orbiter more than 7 times after the initial discovery.

Not only does this prove that it’s possible to find long-lost orbiters around the moon with the power of microwaves, but it proves that this technology might be more multi-purpose than originally thought.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 07, 2018
Near-Twin of New Horizons' Ralph Instrument to Study Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids
If you followed along when NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past Pluto in July 2015, then you probably remember all the stunning photographs taken of t...
NOV 09, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 09, 2018
The Quest to Determine the Length of a Saturnian Day Becomes the Gift that Keeps on Giving
As humankind sets sight on the interstellar space, some may forget that there are still plenty of mysteries remained within our planetary backyard. Take Sa...
DEC 21, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 21, 2018
"Dark Fluid" Theory Unifies Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The current model of the universe hypothesized that the world we dwell in only contain 5% ordinary (tangible, visible) matter; the rest is made of  25...
DEC 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 23, 2018
NASA's InSight Lander Deploys Marsquake Detection Instrument
NASA’s InSight lander touched down on the Martian surface less than a month ago, and it’s already gearing up for scientific data collection and...
JAN 09, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 09, 2019
Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 Instrument Temporarily Shuts Down Amid Technical Difficulties
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps one of the most important space observatories in existence today. Despite launching into orbit around the Ea...
JAN 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2019
Learn More About NASA's Special Painting Process for Martian Rovers
Much like an automobile, NASA’s Martian rovers receive a paint job before they’re delivered to Mars; but that’s where the similarities en...
Loading Comments...