From time to time, the launched spacecraft lose contact with the Earth, and in most such cases such events become the last chapter in their history. However, in recent years, the aerospace agency NASA shows a fairly high level of efficiency in the search for such “loss”. One of the latest finds of the agency was STEREO-B, launched by him into space to study solar activity in 2006 and lost in 2014. And now the American aerospace agency reports that it discovered a lost Indian spacecraft that lost contact with the Earth almost 8 years ago.
Using the radar search method, specialists from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena (California, USA) were able to locate just two of the lost space probes: the still active Moon Orbital Sounder (LRO) sent to the Moon in 2009, and The spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 of the Indian Space Research Organization, launched from Earth in 2008. The latter was found to be much more complicated, since the probe has rather compact dimensions (the apparatus is similar to a cube with a side of 1.5 m) and was considered completely lost.
“Finding LRO was relatively easy. We had data from its navigation systems and accurate information about its orbit with loss of communication. According to these data, we found it, “- says Marina Brozovich, a specialist in radar equipment from the JPL.
“The search for the Indian probe” Chandrayaan-1 “required a little more detective work, because the last contact with the device was already in August 2009”.
At first, the JPL team used orbital calculations to try to find out where the “Chandrayaan-1” could be located. The probe was decided to search at an altitude of 200 kilometers above the surface of the moon, in the polar orbit of the satellite. Then NASA specialists, using a 70-meter Goldstone observatory, began microwave sounding of the space above the satellite’s north pole to check the presence of the apparatus on ground-based radars. And the work gave a positive result. The technique recorded twice the presence of a small object in the search area.
Over the next three months, with the help of a 100-meter GreenBank telescope in West Virginia, as well as the equipment of the Arecibo Observatory, experts listened to echo signals reflected from the spacecraft. The effectiveness of the radar detection of a tiny spacecraft has shown that the method can be useful in future lunar missions.
The apparatus “Chandrayaan-1” became for India the first attempt to reach the Moon. During its 10-month activity from October 2008 to August 2009, the probe completed all the tasks assigned to it and carried out chemical and geological mapping, among others.