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NASA Radar Finds Lost Spacecraft Orbiting Moon

Radar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California has found a lost spacecraft that was launched by India 8 years ago.

The Pasadena-based NASA facility also located NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that had been dormant, the space agency said in a news release.

India’s Chandrayan-1 was found in lunar orbit with ground-based radar. Last contact was made with the device in the fall of 2009.

The JPL team used a 230-foot antenna in California to transmit a beam of microwaves toward the moon to try and find the spacecrafts, located 237,000 miles from the Earth. The radar echoes that bounced back were received by the 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

The feat is even more impressive due to the craft’s size. The cube-shaped Chandrayan-1 is only about 5 feet on each side, or about half the size of a smart car, NASA said, adding that the moon’s gravitational pull varies making the determination of the object’s orbit difficult.

“It turns out that we needed to shift the location of Chandrayaan-1 by about 180 degrees, or half a cycle from the old orbital estimates from 2009,” said Ryan Park, the manager of JPL’s Solar System Dynamics group, who delivered the new orbit back to the radar team.

Radar echoes from the spacecraft were gained several times. It is still orbiting 124 miles above the moon, NASA said.

By Paul Wesley Sullivan

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