Lunar data starts to arrive

Although the Chandrayaan-1 probe has been lost, its legacy is only just being formed. The probe’s study of the mineralogy of the Moon has lent credence to the hypothesis that the lunar surface was once entirely molten. A layer of the mineral anorthite had risen during this period of time due to differentiation of materials (heavier materials falling, lighter materials rising). Chandrayaan-1 also discovered a new type of rock on the Moon, as reported by The Hindu.

LRO doesn’t want to be left out and gave up some interesting data of its own. As reported in Universe Today, images of boulders that have rolled down the lunar terrain, perhaps during Moon quakes such as those measured during the Apollo missions. These events give information on the topography of the image, as it is otherwise difficult to work out what slopes lie where in a two dimensional picture.

Of course, the two together attempted a recent dual experiment. On the twentieth of this month, they were brought within a few kilometres of each other. The intention was for Chandrayaan-1 to beam radar downward and record the backscatter whilst LRO caught reflections at other angles, allowing them to discern the signature of ice amid the rocks of a darkened crater. Sadly, it seems Chandrayaan-1 had two faults that day – it couldn’t fire its radar and it couldn’t hold its orbit steady due to the earlier loss of its star-tracker. New programing to correct the two problems was still in formation when eight days later contact with Chandrayaan-1 ceased for the final time. However, tantalising signs that Chandrayaan-1 caught a glimpse of what could be ice in several small dark craters does mean we now know where to look first.

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