Monday, 20 October 2008
Chandrayaan-1: "Safe" and "Terror" Spots On The Moon
October 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 19: As space faring nations plan to colonise the Moon with human beings in the near future, astrophysicists look towards Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 to spot out "safe" and "terror" landmarks on the Earth's only natural satellite.
The surface of the Moon is uneven and quite dangerous and there's little room for error or surprises. Any miscalculated landing will spell doom. Chandrayaan-1, India's first scientific mission outside the Earth's vicinity, is aided by the most advanced remote sensing technology to date. The Indian mission will help scientists identify places which are "safe" for human landing and habitation. It will also
give enough data on "terror" or dangerous spots, where landing means simply fixing an appointment with death.
Identifying safe and terror spots is of immense importance as the lunar terrain is believed to be marked by several dangerous areas which will "gulp away" anything that steps on them.
Imagine a spacecraft carrying a batch of aliens from another solar system,
planning to colonise the Earth, landing on the Mt Everest, deep in the Amazon jungles, amidst the sandy deserts of Sahara, on the volcanic Mt Etna, or in the Pacific Ocean. The invading ETs will end up in death. Human efforts to colonise the Moon is wrought with similar dangers.
The USA's Apollo-11 mission carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on July 20, 1969 had almost ended in a tragedy as they landed on a dangerous spot, but luckily manoeuvred to safety at the last minute with just 30 seconds of fuel remaining.
Chandrayaan-1 will address such problems in future manned missions by identifying safe and unsafe places on the Moon with the help of the scientific payload it is carrying aboard.
According to senior space scientist Max Meerman, "landing on the Moon is notoriously difficult. Much more so than on Mars". Astrophysicists, with the available data, are divided on the exact geological composition of the "waterless seas" or maria that dot the lunar surface. Some argue that they are hard with volcanic eruptions
including lava while others believe that the volcanic "dust" present there
is as fluffy as baby's powder, enough to "gulp" anything weighty.
If a spaceship lands on such a dangerous surface, it might get buried in the lunar soft soil. Good landing sites need to be even and free from large boulders that could damage spaceships as they attempt to land.
Moreover, scientists are not sure whether the polar regions on the Moon or its equatorial regions are the safe bet, both from the point of view of research and landing.
Moon models prepared by NASA and European Space Agency estimate that the temperature at the poles stay within about a 10 degree range of minus 50 degree Celsius while the
mercury at the equator fluctuates between minus 180 degree Celsius and 100 degree Celsius.
Chandrayaan-1 will also help scientists redesign and update their Moon maps with data on steep slopes, extreme temperatures and rocky terrain. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor scheduled for launch in March next year will also provide similar information.
"Once the maps have been created, mission planners will choose safe zones that are also scientifically interesting or are near possible resources," John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre said in an email to this correspondent.
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