India's Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has discovered that “key elements” are present in the moon’s soil, less than a month after the Vikram rover crash landed on the lunar surface, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said on Friday.
Circling 100km above, scientific instruments on board the orbiter were able to detect charged sodium, calcium, aluminium, silicon, titanium and iron particles on the lunar surface.
The orbiter had to wait for a solar flare to illuminate the lunar surface before measuring secondary x-ray emissions, which revealed the presence of the element.
“While this kind of ‘flash photography’ requires one to wait for the Sun to be active, [the instruments] in their first few days of observation could detect charged particles and their intensity variations during its first passage through the geotail during September,” NDTV quoted the space agency as saying.
The Vikram lander, named after Isro’s founder, crash landed near the Moon’s southern pole on September 6. The mission was to be the first time India had soft landed on another world.
A Bollywood film was released to coincide with the landing, children took the day off of school, and Prime Minister Narendra Modhi himself was at the Isro Centre in Bengaluru to watch the landing with 60 students from across the country.
Isro Chairman K Sivan told the nation of a billion-plus that that the Chandrayaan-2 mission was still “98 per cent successful” after it became clear that the space agency would not be able to establish communication with the lander.
The project was developed in two parts — science and technology demonstration. We achieved total success in the science objective, while in the technology demonstration, the success percentage was almost total,” the New Indian Express quoted Sivan as saying.
Isro also made public images of the lunar surface from the moment Vikram crash landed.
High resolution cameras attached to the orbiter snapped photographs of a crater named after German astronomer Palon H Ludwig von Boguslawsky.
Boguslawski is best known for the discovery of a comet which bears his name and for contributing calculations which helped predict the path of Halley’s Comet.