NASA Radar Provides First Look Inside Moon's Shadowed Craters

Jan 16, 2009
This image is a Mini-RF synthetic aperture radar (SAR) strip overlain on an Earth-based, Arecibo Observatory radar telescope image. Taken Nov. 17, 2008, the south-polar SAR strip shows a part of the moon never seen before: a portion of Haworth crater that is permanently shadowed from Earth and the sun. The only way to explore these regions is by using an orbital radar such as Mini-RF. Credit: ISRO/NASA/JHUAPL/LPI/Cornell University/Smithsonian

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using a NASA radar flying aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists are getting their first look inside the moon's coldest, darkest craters.

The Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, has passed its initial in-flight tests and sent back its first data. The images show the floors of permanently-shadowed polar craters on the moon that aren't visible from Earth. Scientists are using the instrument to map and search the insides of the craters for water ice.

"The only way to explore such areas is to use an orbital imaging radar such as Mini-SAR," said Benjamin Bussey, deputy principal investigator for Mini-SAR, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "This is an exciting first step for the team which has worked diligently for more than three years to get to this point."

The images, taken on Nov. 17, 2008, cover part of the Haworth crater at the moon's south pole and the western rim of Seares crater, an impact feature near the north pole. Bright areas in each image represent either surface roughness or slopes pointing toward the spacecraft. Further data collection by Mini-SAR and analysis will help scientists to determine if buried ice deposits exist in the permanently shadowed craters near the moon's poles.

"During the next few months we expect to have a fully calibrated and operational instrument collecting valuable science data at the moon," said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

Mini-SAR is one of 11 instruments on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 and one of two NASA-sponsored contributions to its international payload. The other is the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution. Data from the two NASA instruments will contribute to the agency's increased understanding of the lunar environment as it implements America's space exploration plan, which calls for robotic and human missions to the moon.

Chandrayaan-1 launched from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center on Oct. 21 and began orbiting the moon Nov. 8. The Applied Physics Laboratory performed the final integration and testing on Mini-SAR. It was developed and built by the Naval Air Warfare Center and several other commercial and government contributors. The Applied Physics Laboratory's Satellite Communications Facility is Chandrayaan-1's primary ground station in the Western Hemisphere.

These first images and other information about NASA's Mini-SAR, also known as Mini-RF, can be found at: www.nasa.gov/mini-rf

For more information about the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, visit: m3.jpl.nasa.gov

For more information about Chandrayaan-1, visit: www.isro.org/Chandrayaan

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Curiosity brushes 'Bonanza king' target anticipating fourth red planet rock drilling

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team builds world's first CubeSat microgravity laboratory

Apr 23, 2014

(Phys.org) —A dozen astronauts have walked on the moon, and several rovers have been piloted on Mars, giving us a good understanding of these off-world environments. But when it comes to asteroids, scientists ...

Proposed Mars 'Icebreaker' mission detailed

Apr 18, 2014

Scientists supported by the Astrobiology Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) and Astrobiology Instrument Development Programs (ASTID) have outlined the proposed 'Icebreaker' mission to Mars in a recent ...

NASA Goddard joins new virtual research institute

Dec 02, 2013

Researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. have joined a new NASA virtual institute that will focus on questions concerning space science and human space exploration. Nine research ...

Researcher helping solve moon's water puzzles

Nov 15, 2013

One of the things Dr. Richard Miller thinks is coolest about working as part of a team investigating the origin and mapping of water on the lunar poles is that he can look up at night or when the moon rises ...

Recommended for you

NKorea launch pad expansion 'nearing completion'

5 hours ago

A U.S. research institute says construction to upgrade North Korea's main rocket launch pad should be completed by fall, allowing Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng) to conduct a launch by year's end if it decides to do so.

Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

11 hours ago

Look up at the night sky this week and you'll find Mars and Saturn together in the west. Mars stands out with its reddish colouring and you might just be able to detect a faint yellow tinge to Saturn. ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

morpheus2012
1 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2009
morpheus2012
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2009