Chandrayaan-2 orbiter makes new discovery about distribution of gas in moon’s atmosphere

The main objective of Chandrayaan-2 mission was to demonstrate ISRO's capability to make a soft landing on the moon.[PTI, file]

India’s second mission to the Moon orbiter has made new observations about the distribution of an important gas in the moon’s upper atmosphere.

The three vehicles named Chandryaan-2  that was launched as one combined spacecraft in July 2019 to lunar orbit, and the lander, carrying the rover, made a new discovery that can offer new insights into the lunar surroundings.

New data from Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 (CHACE-2) mass spectrometer on Chandrayaan - 2 show the distribution of Argon-40 gas in the lunar ‘exosphere’, beyond the areas this was known to exist, a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

“Though Argon-40 (Ar-40) is known to exist in the lunar exosphere, the knowledge on its distribution at higher latitudes is lacking. For the first time, Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2 experiment aboard Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has continuously observed Ar-40 in latitude range of -60 to +60 degrees,” according to the study published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letters, based on this data.

“The observed global distribution indicates that the interaction of Ar-40 with the surface is similar in low and mid-latitude regions. The CHACE-2 observations hint at a requirement for improvement in our understanding of the surface-exosphere interactions and source distributions of Ar-40,” the study said.

The main objective of the Chandrayaan-2 mission was to demonstrate ISRO’s capability to make a soft landing on the moon. The mission had a lander and a rover component that were supposed to carry out a number of experiments on the lunar surface.

However, due to technical glitches in the final moments ahead of the touchdown, the lander was unable to make a soft landing. Instead, it crash-landed and got destroyed.

The Orbiter part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, however, was unaffected and is continuing to carry out its scientific experiments. The Orbiter is carrying eight instruments, including CHACE-2, for different kinds of measurements.

These instruments have been sending a wealth of new information about the moon and its surroundings.

To compensate for the failure of making a soft landing, the ISRO has prepared a Chandrayaan-3 mission that is scheduled to be launched later this year.

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