18 Jan : Using a NASA radar flying aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists are able to get their first look inside the moon’s coldest and darkest craters.The Mini-SAR instrument is a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, that passed its initial in-flight tests and sent back its first data, NASA said.
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.
"This is an exciting first step for the team which has worked diligently for more than three years to get to this point," he said.
The images were taken on 17th November 2008 and 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.
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, programme executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.