The debate has endured since the early 1960’s: could there be water ice hiding in deep, dark craters near the Moon’s poles, left untouched by sunlight? Several spacecraft orbiting the moon have tried to peer into these craters to find out, but so far no definitive data has been obtained either way. But now NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are looking to team up two spacecraft to try and answer the question once and for all. “When it happens, it is going to be a unique experiment and will be the first of its kind,” said Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, project director for the Chandrayaan-I orbiter.
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-I, already in lunar orbit and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), scheduled to launch later this month would be maneuvered to orbit simultaneously over the lunar poles, and the data from the both spacecrafts’ radar instruments would be shared and exchanged. Details of the collaboration are still being worked out, but officials hope to finalize the plans within a month.
The master plan for the experiment was developed Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute of Houston, who also led the team of US scientists in the Chandrayaan-I project.
“Our experiment should answer first the broad questions about the existence of lunar polar ice, its extent and purity,” Spudis wrote in his paper published in Lunar and Planetary Science journal.
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