Radar Peers into Moon's Dark Craters
18 Jan 2009
NASA RADAR PROVIDES FIRST LOOK INSIDE MOON'S SHADOWED CRATERS
WASHINGTON -- Using a NASA radar flying aboard India's Chandrayaan-1
spacecraft, scientists are getting their first look inside the moon's
coldest, darkest craters.
The Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, has
passed its initial in-flight tests and sent back its first data. The
images show the floors of permanently-shadowed polar craters on the
moon that aren't visible from Earth. Scientists are using the
instrument to map and search the insides of the craters for water
"The only way to explore such areas is to use an orbital imaging radar
such as Mini-SAR," said Benjamin Bussey, deputy principal
investigator for Mini-SAR, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "This is an exciting first step for
the team which has worked diligently for more than three years to get
to this point."
The images, taken on Nov. 17, 2008, cover part of the Haworth crater
at the moon's south pole and the western rim of Seares crater, an
impact feature near the north pole. Bright areas in each image
represent either surface roughness or slopes pointing toward the
spacecraft. Further data collection by Mini-SAR and analysis will
help scientists to determine if buried ice deposits exist in the
permanently shadowed craters near the moon's poles.
These first images and other information about NASA's Mini-SAR, also
known as Mini-RF, can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/mini-rf
"During the next few months we expect to have a fully calibrated and
operational instrument collecting valuable science data at the moon,"
said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for
NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.
Mini-SAR is one of 11 instruments on the Indian Space Research
Organization's Chandrayaan-1 and one of two NASA-sponsored
contributions to its international payload. The other is the Moon
Mineralogy Mapper, a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will
provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and
spectral resolution. Data from the two NASA instruments will
contribute to the agency's increased understanding of the lunar
environment as it implements America's space exploration plan, which
calls for robotic and human missions to the moon.
Chandrayaan-1 launched from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center on Oct.
21 and began orbiting the moon Nov. 8. The Applied Physics Laboratory
performed the final integration and testing on Mini-SAR. It was
developed and built by the Naval Air Warfare Center and several other
commercial and government contributors. The Applied Physics
Laboratory's Satellite Communications Facility is Chandrayaan-1's
primary ground station in the Western Hemisphere.
For more information about the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, visit: [LINK||http://m3.jpl.nasa.gov||http://m3.jpl.nasa.gov]]
For more information about Chandrayaan-1, visit: http://www.isro.org/Chandrayaan