Chandrayaan-2: One year since launch, first science data on polar water-ice, minerals expected by October 2020

Water-ice near the polar regions, water-bearing minerals, and Argon concentrations in the exosphere are some key areas of data to expect.

Space enthusiasts in India and world over were eager to see the first batch of key findings from the Chandrayaan-2 in March this year. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Space Research Organisation has announced that the first science data from the mission will be made public in October 2020.

While the space agency has shared many of the visuals captured by the High-Resolution Camera (OHRC) instrument on the orbiter, ISRO has yet to publish any scientific data from the Chandrayaan-2 mission in the public domain.

"OHRC has acquired 22 orbits images of lunar surface consisting of nearly 1056 sq km area. It is also used to characterize landing sites for future missions," ISRO said in the release.

Data on the presence of water-ice in the Moon's polar regions, X-ray and infrared scans of minerals on the surface, and the presence of Argon-40 are some of the key areas of the public science data release, the agency went on to say.

3D images of a crater created by the Terrain Mapping Camera-2 on the Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter. Image: ISRO

Of the many scientific, imaging and mapping instruments onboard the Orbiter, the High-Resolution Camera (OHRC) from an altitude of ~100 km, has captured some of the highest resolution visuals ever taken of the Moon. It has also helped developed the first three-dimensional map of a structure on the moon — an impact crater, the space agency has said.

Multiple instruments on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter have been designed to study the water-ice deposits on the Moon. Two of these – a radar instrument called DFSAR and a powerful infrared spectrometer – will map the water ice in the moon's polar regions where the concentration of water-ice is thought to be highest of anywhere on the moon.

"With twice as much penetration depth and higher resolution, DFSAR will quantify the amount of water trapped in these cold regions, something no one has adequately done yet," Jatan Mehta, former science officer at TeamIndus wrote in The Wire.

The second instrument, an infrared spectrometer, will gather data towards a high-resolution map of water concentrations in the lunar soil, and give scientists a look at what kind of water-bearing minerals exist on the moon's surface.

3D view of a wrinkled ridge on the Moon generated from images captured by Chandrayaan 2 TMC. Image: ISRO

3D view of a wrinkled ridge on the Moon generated from images captured by Chandrayaan 2 TMC. Image: ISRO

ISRO announced that it had gathered the first science data from the Chandrayaan-2 mission in October 2019, which is survived by the highly-capable Chandryaan-2 Orbiter.

On 21 July 2019, the Indian Space Research Organisation launched its Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon, on an Indian GSLV-Mk-III–M1 rocket. The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was inserted into lunar orbit on 20 August 2019.

While it lifted off from a launchpad in Sriharikota with the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, the lander Vikram and rover Pragyan, the lander and rover crash-landed on the Moon during a soft-landing attempt on 7 September, and has been incommunicado with ISRO ever since.

Also read: What happened to Chandrayaan 2's Vikram lander, and four other things we learnt from the Lok Sabha Q&A with ISRO

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