India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan 2 had failed to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface and left the whole nation in shock and disappointment as the lander and rover malfunctioned at the eleventh hour and crash-landed on the surface of the moon. However, that was not the end of it as the entire mission had not wasted as the Orbiter part of the mission functioned normally and has been gathering data from the lunar body. Recently the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has released the information which has been collected by the orbiter of Chandrayaan 2, the Indian Express reported.
What information has the orbiter gathered?
Water Molecule: While the presence of water on the lunar body has already been established in various Moon missions including ISRO’s Chandrayaan 1, the Chandrayaan 1 mission did not have sensitive instrument to distinguish clearly whether the signals had emanated from the hydroxyl radical (OH) or the water molecule (H2O) which too has OH as a constituent. This time around during the Chandrayaan 2 mission, the instruments were far more sensitive and used Imaging Infra-Red Spectrometer (IIRS) and was successful in distinguishing the signals emanating from OH and H2O. The orbiter of the Chandrayaan 2 mission found unique signatures of both hydroxyl molecule (OH) an H2O water molecule. The finding about the presence of water confirmed by the Indian mission are most comprehensive to date in comparison to the earlier missions on the Moon.
Also the previous lunar missions had only been able to detect the presence of water on the polar regions of the body whereas the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter has confirmed the presence of water on all latitudes of the celestial body. The IIRS instrument also found that the abundance of water varies from one latitude to another on the Moon.
Discovery of Minor Elements
The Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS) is used to measure the X-ray spectrum of Moon to ascertain the presence of minerals and elements like magnesium, aluminium, silicon, calcium, titanium, iron among others. The instrument used in the ISRO orbiter has detected for the first time minor elements on the surface of the Moon namely Chromium and Manganese. The finding can play a crucial role in understanding the magmatic revolution of the celestial body. In addition to Chromium and Manganese, Sodium has also beend detected for the first time on the lunar surface without any ambiguity.
Significance of orbiter findings
While loads of information collected by the orbiter reiterate the findings of previous lunar missions, several novel aspects about the elements present on the surface, presence of water across latitudes and in various forms along with volatile mapping of the body will help space agencies immensely in planning of future missions to the Moon. Future missions which stand to benefit from the findings of the orbiter include ISRO-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) collaboration Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission, NASA’s Artemis mission among others.