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NASA's Chandrayaan payload hits a mine field

December 27, 2008 12:51 IST

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An experiment onboard India's maiden moon mission -- Chandrayaan-I -- has found iron-bearing minerals in abundance on the lunar surface, initial reports suggest.

Moon [Images] Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA [Images]) has beamed back images of the Orientale Basin on the western limb of the moon.

An analysis of the images indicates abundance of iron-bearing minerals such as pyroxene, said Carle Pieters, a senior scientist of US-based Brown University and principal investigator for the M3 experiment.

"The image is from a single wavelength of light that contains thermal emission, providing a new level of detail on the form and structure of the region's surface," he said.

The images were captured by the M3 during the commissioning phase of Chandrayaan-1, launched on October 22, as the spacecraft orbited the moon at an altitude of 100 km.

"The M3 provides us with compositional information across the moon that we have never had access to before," Pieters said, adding that the ability to now identify and map the composition of the surface in geologic context provided a new level of detail needed to explore and understand the moon.

M3 is one of the 10 instruments onboard the unmanned Chandrayaan [Images], conducting experiments while the spacecraft orbits over the moon next two years.

Five instruments were indigenously built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), while the remaining six experiments are of foreign origin, including three from the European Space Agency, two from NASA and one from Bulgaria.

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