Cross posted at Chennai Today.
The US's National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have signed an MoU with ISRO to carry two of NASA's payloads on board the Chandrayaan I. [1 | 2] This MoU is in line with a series of co-operation measures between the two countries.
Dr.Michael Griffin, NASA's top man signed the MoU along with ISRO's Chairman, Mr.G.Madhavan Nair at the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore. The MoU is about sending two US instruments on board the Chandrayaan I, India's mission to the moon. One of the instruments is a Mini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory, JHU and the other a Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) built by the Brown University and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Specifically, the mini SAR will look for ice pockets at moon's poles. SAR is a technique of imaging in which echoes returned from a very narrow and intense beam are processed to produce an image of the surface which produces the reflections. Very simply, the arrival time of each of the different echoes is a primary indicator of the distance of the point which produces the echo. For a little more 'technical' detail, visit here.
The Moon Mineralogy Mapper will provide NASA with an image map of the entire lunar surface in terms of the mineral content and distribution. Each mineral has a distinct signature in terms of the frequencies that it emits. This is used to distinguish the various minerals and their distribution on the surface of the moon. This, NASA says, would be useful in providing clues to the early development of the solar system.
Chandrayaan-I, designed for a 100 KM X 100 KM lunar orbit and scheduled for a September 2007 launch, would get these payloads by February 2007 from NASA.
THE HINDU (Saturday, May 13) carried an interview with Dr.Michael Griffin. Questions ranged from India-US Cooperation, Nuclear Deal, ISRO's facilities, the thermal tiles of Discovery and NASA's future plans among others. Elaborating on the dual purpose Crew Exploration Vehicle(CEV), that NASA hopes to launch by 2014, he said:
The CEV is designed to do double duty. It is designed to ferry astronauts and scientists to the space station. It is also designed to leave the low earth orbit and go to the Moon… In the longer run, the CEV will be part of the system that goes to Mars.