What Chandrayaan-2 has sent

Synopsis: The failure of Chandrayaan-2 to make a soft-landing on the lunar surface had led to much disappointment. However, Orbiter part of the mission has gathered a wealth of new information.

Introduction

Due to crash landing, ISRO missed the opportunity to demonstrate soft-landing in outer space and gather more local information. The lander Vikram and rover Pragyaan could have helped prepare a more composite picture of the Moon.

However, recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released the information gathered by the scientific payloads till now.

What information has been gathered by the orbiter?

Presence of H2O molecules: Instrument used on Chandrayaan-1 was not sensitive enough to detect whether the signals came from the hydroxyl radical (OH) or the water molecule (H2O).

The Imaging Infra-Red Spectrometer (IIRS) on board Chandrayaan-2 has been able to distinguish between hydroxyl and water molecules.

Places with water molecule: Chandrayaan-2 has now found signatures of water at all latitudes.

Potential water ice: The Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar has reported detection of potential water ice at the poles as it has been able to distinguish properties of surface roughness from that of water ice.

Minor elements: The Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS) measures the Moon’s X-ray spectrum. This instrument has detected the minor elements chromium and manganese for the first time through remote sensing. Sodium was detected without any ambiguity for the first time.

It will help in understanding magmatic evolution and deeper insights into the nebular conditions.

Revelations by CLASS: it has mapped nearly 95% of the lunar surface in X-rays for the first time. Scientists at ISRO believe that based on the CLASS findings, a direct link of exospheric sodium to the surface can be established.

Revelations regarding SUN: Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM) through the radiation coming in from the Sun has collected information about solar flares.

This has great implications on the understanding of the mechanism behind heating of the solar corona, which has been an open problem for many decades.

Why is chandryaan-2 orbiter significant?

It paves the path for future Moon missions: mineralogical and volatile mapping of the lunar surface and maps of elements will be key for future scope of work. It is expected to help scientists for human missions also.

International collaborations: Some key future Moon missions that hope to make use of such data include the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)-ISRO collaboration Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission scheduled for launch in 2023/2024, NASA’s Artemis missions.

Source: This post is based on the article “What Chandrayaan-2 has sent” published in Indian Express on 10th September 2021.

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