NASA hitches ride with Indian moon mission

NASA has signed an agreement with Indian Space Research Organisation to have two scientific instruments aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon.

NASA will have two scientific instruments on India’s maiden voyage to the moon. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and his counterpart, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, signed two Memoranda of Understanding in Bangalore, India, for cooperation on India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission.

Griffin is touring Indian Space Research Organisation facilities this week. He will visit its satellite development centre, launch vehicle production centre and launch site.

“It is my hope and belief that as we extend the reach of human civilisation throughout the solar system, the United States and India will be partners on many more technically challenging and scientifically rewarding projects,” Griffin said at a ceremony in Bangalore. “I very much look forward to the opportunity to see first hand India’s impressive space facilities, to meet with your scientists and engineers and to learn more about your remarkable work.”

Chandrayaan-1, a lunar orbiter, is expected to launch in late 2007 or early 2008. It is a truly international mission, with payloads from Europe as well as the United States. NASA’s contribution includes the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a NASA Discovery Program mission of opportunity designed to assess mineral resources of the moon. A second NASA instrument, Mini-SAR, will look for ice deposits in the moon’s polar regions.

Data from the two instruments will contribute to NASA’s increased understanding of the lunar environment as it implements the Vision for Space Exploration, which calls for robotic and human exploration of the moon’s surface.