Thursday, February 17, 2011

India hopes to join JPL MoonRise mission to SPA

From LRO Wide Angle Camera Album -
LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) monochrome mosaic of the Moon's oldest (known) basin, the 2,100 km-wide, 4 billion year old South Pole-Aitken (SPA) impact basin. Stretching from just south of the equator on the Moon's farside to the ring of massifs spills over to the Near side, 200 km north of the Moon's south pole on the nearside, SPA has not yet been directly sampled [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Pallava Bagla

India hopes to join the United States on a sample return mission to the moon, according to K. Radhakrishnan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He announced that India's policy group, the Space Commission, decided on 12 February to give the go-ahead for work on a possible contribution to MoonRise, a U.S. effort to land a probe on the moon's surface, scoop up 1 kilogram of material, and return it to Earth for analysis. India would provide an orbiter similar to its observation satellite Chandrayaan-1, which in 2009 helped clinch evidence of water's presence on the moon.

The new Indian instrument would circle the moon for a few years and aid in communications and imaging. ISRO hopes to invest $38 million on developing this 400 to 500 kg instrument, which would travel into space on a U.S. Atlas rocket.

The mission leader, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is planning for a launch in 2016, but has not yet selected the MoonRise instruments. The goal is to learn more about the geology and origins of the moon. According to NASA, the mission will "focus on the giant South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin on the far side, which lies between the moon's South Pole and Aitken crater.

Read the write-up HERE.

Photo-mosaic of the Moon's south pole from the Terrain Mapping Camera aboard ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 (2009). An instrument on the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), released from Chandrayaan soon after its arrival in orbit, was the first to directly sample the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules near the lunar surface, just prior to impacting the Moon at Shackleton crater [ISRO].

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