Washington, March 10: Ever wondered what happens after the satellites die? The closer satellites will fall out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. The satellites are also sent farther which becomes difficult to trace afterwards. Likewise, NASA just got a peek-a-boo moment when it spotted Chandrayan-1 which was dead since 7 years. India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has been found orbiting the moon.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California also found the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a small robotic spacecraft orbiting the moon and sending back data for the agency’s future manned missions. ISRO said that the "satellite made more than 3400 orbits around the moon and the mission was concluded when the communication with the spacecraft was lost on August 29, 2009".
“Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located,” Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at JPL and principal investigator for the test project, said in a release. “Finding India’s Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009.” JPL was recently trying out new ways to find objects in space.
How did it happen?
NASA's 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California was used to find Chandrayaan-1. It sent out a powerful beam of microwaves directed toward the moon. Chandrayaan-1 was in an orbit over both of the moon’s poles doing 3D mapping and other imaging processes, pursuing the hunch that one of the two poles would have frozen water hidden in its dusty grey plains. The JPL team figured Chandrayaan would do a lap of the moon at least once every two hours and eight minutes, so they pointed the biggest microwave radar they had — a 230-foot antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California — about 100 miles above the moon’s north pole, and waited. If anything was out there, it would bounce the signal back to the 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
"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 Brozovic.
Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first mission to the Moon. In its 10 months of activity between October 2008 and August 2009, the satellite completed all of its mission objectives, which included chemical and geological mapping.