India's lunar mission Chandrayaan 2, scheduled to launch next month, will carry NASA's laser instruments that allow scientists to make precise measurements of the distance to the Moon, according to the US space agency officials.
During the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held at Texas, the US last week, NASA confirmed that Chandrayaan 2 and Israeli lander Beresheet, due to touch down April 11, will each carry NASA-owned laser retroreflector arrays.
"We're trying to populate the entire surface with as many laser reflector arrays as we can possibly get there," Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, was reported as saying by 'Space.com'.
Retroreflectors are sophisticated mirrors, that reflect laser light signals sent from the Earth. The signals can help pinpoint precisely where the lander is, which scientists can use to precisely calculate the Moon's distance from Earth.
While five such instruments already exist on the lunar surface, they have some flaws, according to Simone Dell'Agnello, a physicist at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics National Laboratory at Italy.
"The existing reflectors are big ones," said Dell'Agnello adding that individual reflectors instead of arrays, would waste fewer laser pulses and allow more-precise measurements of the moon's surface.
Those analyses could become so detailed that scientists could see the daily rise and fall of any lander surface the device is resting on as that surface expands and contracts with the Moon's dramatic temperature changes.
As per ISRO's website, Chandrayaan-2, India's second mission to the Moon, is a totally indigenous mission comprising of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover.
The mission will carry a six-wheeled Rover which will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.
The Chandrayaan-2 weighing around 3290 kg and would orbit around the moon and perform the objectives of remote sensing the moon. The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
(With inputs from www.isro.gov.in)