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today and a long-lost lunar orbiter that was launched by India that hasn’t been heard from since 2009 because it's no longer active.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
JUL 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 29, 2018
Algae in Space: A Potential Food and Fuel Source?
During SpaceX’s recent CRS-15 launch, a mission to resupply the International Space Station with fresh supplies, the commercial space company’s...
AUG 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 07, 2018
Why Does the James Webb Space Telescope Keep Getting Delayed?
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become NASA’s latest and greatest space-based observatory, superseding the Hubble Space Telescope as the big...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
This NASA Rocket Will Spend 15 Minutes Gawking at the Sun with X-Ray Vision
NASA is currently eyeballing Friday, September 7th for the third consecutive launch of its Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), a space vehicle spec...
SEP 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 05, 2018
What Would We Even Do If We Found Aliens?
Space agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency are exceptionally busy searching our solar system for evidence of otherworldly life, but do we know...
OCT 15, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 15, 2018
Picking a Landing Site On Mars is No Easy Task
When space agencies like NASA send landers and rovers to other places in the solar system to explore, one of the most challenging questions they’re c...
OCT 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 17, 2018
Do Magnetic Fields Influence Supermassive Black Hole Activity?
Black holes have long captivated some of the most brilliant minds in astrophysics, and despite all the space telescope observations astronomers have made o...
Loading Comments...