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The first ever complete map of Moon’s surface, being developed by US’ National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), will show India’s second unmanned lunar mission—Chandrayaan-2—the way around on Moon. Importantly, the map which is being readied by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre by using its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft that is orbiting Moon, will help India’s 2013-scheduled Chandrayaan-2 determine its precise landing point on the lunar surface, sources in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told DNA.
As a member of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, India is in line to procure NASA’s lunar map data when the work is completed somewhere in 2013, in time for Chandrayaan-2.
Chandrayaan-2 will comprise a 1,200 kg Russian-designed and developed moon lander carrying a single 15 kg rover developed by ISRO in collaboration with Russia.
The lander will also carry a 35 kg scientific payload powered by solar panels, equipment to analyse the lunar soil and detect the presence of water, a seismometer, a laser reflector, and will place a beacon to facilitate future Moon landings.
Scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Centre presented the details about the first complete lunar map at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on December 17.
According to scientists at Goddard, the data being compiled will include digital elevations and terrain maps that will act as reference for future scientific and human missions to the moon, beginning with Chandrayaan-2.
Gregory Neumann, geophysicist at Goddard said: “After about one year of taking data, we already have nearly three billion data points from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) on board the LRO spacecraft…We expect to make measurements through the next two years.”
“The data will be used by space scientists for a period of six months before being put into the public domain,” RR Navalgund, director of Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre (SAC), told DNA.
Chandrayaan-2 will pick up from where Chandrayaan-1 left off after recording the discovery of water and water ice on Moon, particularly in Moon’s polar regions.
These regions are not reached by sunlight and not much is known about how deep these craters are near the lunar poles.