An American geologist, selected by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as an investigator for Chandrayaan-I, has said she is excited and honoured to be part of the historic lunar mission, which aims to "unlock the mysteries" of the moon.
Revealing the closely guarded information about her Chandrayaan-I selection, geologist Carle Pieters told leading Indian news group, the Hindustan Times, in an exclusive interview: "I feel honoured that the project, funded by NASA, has been selected by the ISRO. I'm really excited to work on this ambitious project."
A Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Pieters will lead a team of US scientists to map the mineral composition of the moon through the state-of-the-art Moon Mineralogy Mapper, called M3, and referred to as 'M-cube'.
The team includes scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and various US universities.
An official announcement about the ISRO-NASA collaboration on Chandrayaan-I, would be made after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries, Pieters said.
"As such a high level of collaboration between NASA and ISRO has never existed in the past (which will involve technology transfers and exports of sophisticated space equipment), a MoU is necessary," she said.
Divulging few details about her proposed studies of the lunar surface, Pieters said for now she was busy readying the M-cube.
Pieters, who specialises in lunar evolution, and is considered a pioneer in the field of remote compositional analysis of lunar regions, said once the MoU was signed, the M-cube would be shipped to India for installation onboard Chandrayaan-I.
Identifying the moon as a cornerstone to understanding the early evolution of the solar system, Pieters claimed the M3 high-resolution compositional maps would dramatically improve scientists' understanding of the early evolution of the terrestrial planets.
"This would provide assessment of lunar resources at high spatial resolution," she said.
Besides evaluating concentrations of unusual or unexpected minerals on the moon, Pieters said the M3 would identify and assess the deposits containing volatiles, including water, and map fresh craters to assess properties of impacts in the recent past.
"We would evaluate crustal components and their distribution across the highlands and characterise the diversity and extent of different types of basaltic volcanism," she told The Hindustan Times.
The Chandrayaan-I mission is scheduled for take off in late 2007.
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