India’s Chandrayaan-1 satellite before launch in 2008.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Since August 2009 there had been no successful contact with India’s Chandrayaan-1 moon-orbiting satellite, the first lunar probe ever launched by the Indian Space Research Organization.

The mission went abruptly silent 312 days into what was slated to be a two-year project.

Scientists at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and at the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia worked together to detect the long-lost orbiter by sending out radio waves in its direction and listening for the echoes that bounced back. “To be declared lost and then found after eight years is a great accomplishment,” Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former chair of the India Space Research Organization and one of the architects of the project, told Times of India. 

Exploiting the orbiting satellite’s habits — the probe glides over the Moon’s north pole — NASA scientists used Goldstone’s largest antenna to direct a powerful beam of microwaves toward the spot they expected the satellite, which is no larger than a household refrigerator. The antenna is usually used to communicate with spacecrafts much farther away it’s still in touch with, for example, the Voyager 1 satellite.

The researchers used the same technique to find NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — an easier task because the LRO is still operational.

But this could be just the beginning of interplanetary radar investigations. The void between planets is filling up with human-made spacecraft, and it’s only going to get more crowded. If scientists want to prevent potentially devastating collisions, they’re going to need a powerful system to keep track of everything.

“Ground-based radars could possibly play a part in future robotic and human missions to the moon, both for a collisional hazard assessment tool and as a safety mechanism for spacecraft that encounter navigation or communication issues,” NASA said in a statement.