India's 'lost' Chandrayaan-1 Spotted Orbiting Moon

March 10, 2017, Chennai

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Mar 10: India's first lunar mission -- the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which was generally considered lost -- is still orbiting the Moon, NASA scientists have found with new technological application of interplanetary radar.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, barely a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.

Chandrayaan-1 is still circling some 200 kilometers above the lunar surface, the scientists determined.

In addition to finding Chandrayaan-1, the scientists also located NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter around the Moon.

"We have been able to detect NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit with ground-based radar," said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 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," Brozovic said in a NASA statement on Thursday.

Finding derelict spacecraft and space debris in Earth's orbit can be a technological challenge.

Detecting these objects in orbit around Earth's Moon is even more difficult. 

Optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the Moon. 

However, with the new technological application of interplanetary radar, the scientists at JPL successfully located the two spacecraft orbiting the Moon.