Data from Chandrayaan moon mission to go public

By Bhargavi Kerur, IANS,

Bangalore : Voluminous scientific data, including rare images of the moon, from India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 will be made public by the year-end.

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“People will have free access to the huge data obtained from our first moon mission on a web portal that will be launched by this year-end,” a senior scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS here.

“The data has been split into two seasons, with the first dealing from November 2008 to February 2009 and the second from March to August 2009. The first season data will be archived by year-end and the second by mid-2011,” said ISRO’s space application centre director B. Gopala Krishna.

A total of 26 gigabytes of data and images will be uploaded after archiving the first season.

The archives will include chemical and mineral mapping, high resolution three-dimensional mapping and topographical features.

The state-run ISRO launched the 514 kg mooncraft onboard the polar satellite launch vehicle Oct 22, 2008 from its spaceport Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.

The Rs.3.9-billion Chandrayaan was the first mooncraft to have confirmed the presence of water on the moon.

After a 10-month rendezvous with the earth’s only natural satellite, the mission was terminated Aug 30, 2009 when the space agency’s Deep Space Network (DSN) at Bylalu, about 40 km from here, lost radio contact with Chandrayaan after computers onboard became non-functional.

“Though the dedicated portal will have a catalogue of the data, specific information will be made available for students and scholars pursuing research in space exploration,” Krishna said.

Indian space scientists are currently reviewing the voluminous data, including about 70,000 images relayed to DSN by the 10 scientific instruments Chandrayaan carried to the lunar orbit, about 100 km from the moon’s surface and over 400,000 km from the earth.

“Our scientists from various planetary groups are beginning to peer review the data from 10 of the 11 payloads. The same will be made accessible to the public as the lock-in period for the principal investigators of the mission to analyse will end by December,” Krishna said.

Of the 11 instruments, five were Indian and six were from the US and Europe.

ISRO scientists have used the planetary data system, developed by the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for preservation and utilisation of the archived information.

“We are also in the process of generating a topographical atlas and a mineralogical atlas of the moon from the data,” Krishna noted.

Detailed mapping of moon’s mineralogy and topography will pave way for further research possibilities.

“We will prepare an atlas of the moon with latitude, longitude, colours of areas, ice water, minerals and terrain from the sheets of topography in the data,” Krishna added.

Chandrayaan accomplished 95 percent of its scientific and technological objectives before its mission was called off prematurely. It had been programmed to orbit the moon for nearly two years.