• Introduction
    • Moon Mineralogy Mapper


      Moon Mineralogy Mapper

      The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3 (pronounced M-cube), is one of eleven instruments that flew on board Chandrayaan-1, India's first deep space mission. A project of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the goals of the mission were to expand scientific knowledge of the Moon, upgrade India's technological capability, and provide challenging opportunities for planetary research for the younger generation.

      Chandrayaan-1 provided high resolution remote sensing of the Moon in the visible, near infrared, low energy X-ray and high-energy X-ray regions that will be used in preparing a three-dimensional atlas and for chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface. The M3 instrument provided the finest detail over the broadest spectral range among all of the instruments that have ever flown to the Moon.


      Mission Management

      Dr. Carle Pieters
      Dr. Carle Pieters,
      Principal Investigator

      Dr. Carle Pieters of Brown University is the Principal Investigator. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, was responsible for project management and instrument development.

  • Science Objectives
    • M3 characterized and mapped the mineral composition of the Moon at high resolution to gain information about the Moon's geologic evolution and dramatically improve our understanding of the early evolution of the terrestrial planets. M3 also provided an assessment of lunar mineral resources at high spatial resolution.

      Specific objectives were to:

      Evaluate primary crustal components and their distribution across the highlands

      Characterize the diversity and extent of different types of basaltic volcanism

      Map fresh craters to assess abundance of small impacts in the recent past

      Identify and assess deposits containing volatiles

      Identify and evaluate concentrations of unusual and unexpected minerals

      Rear view of the M3 instrument in flight configuration.
      Rear view of the M3 instrument in flight configuration.
  • Details

      The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft launched on October 22, 2008, from Satish Dhawam Space Center, India, aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

      M3 is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer which gives scientists their first opportunity to examine lunar mineralogy at high spatial and spectral resolution. It mapped the entire lunar surface from an altitude of 60 miles. Targets included outcrops exposed at the walls and central peaks of large craters, complex volcanic terrain, boundaries where different kinds of rocks converge, unusual or rare compositions, and the polar regions.

      This information is important both for scientific and exploration purposes. A detailed characterization of lunar surface mineralogy can dramatically improve our understanding of the Moon's origin and geologic evolution, as well as the early development of the rocky planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. A detailed map of lunar resources will be of great practical use to future astronauts who may live and work on the Moon for extended periods of time -- and perhaps to those in the more distant future, for whom the Moon may be a way station en route to other planets.


      Chandrayaan-1 being prepared for Thermovac test prior to launch.
      Chandrayaan-1 being prepared for Thermovac test prior to launch.
  • Results
    • The M3 instrument discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the Moon.  From lunar orbit, M3's spectrometer measured light reflecting off the Moon's surface at infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colors of the lunar surface into small enough bits to reveal a new level of detail in surface composition.  When the M3 science team analyzed the data, they found the wavelengths of light being absorbed were consistent with the absorption patterns for water molecules and hydroxyl.

      The analysis unequivocally confirms the presence of these molecules on the Moon's surface and reveals that the entire surface appears to be hydrated during at least some portion of the lunar day.

      The discovery was confirmed by data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS, on NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and the High-Resolution Infrared Imaging Spectrometer on NASA's EPOXI spacecraft.  The spacecraft imaging spectrometers made it possible to map lunar water more effectively than ever before.

      The surprising finding was reported at a NASA press briefing on Sept. 24, 2009, and published in the Sept. 24 issue of the journal Science.  The finding raises new questions about water’s origin and effect on the mineralogy of the Moon.  Answers to these questions will be studied and debated for years to come.

      The Chandrayaan-1 mission ended earlier than planned when ISRO lost radio contact with the spacecraft on Aug. 29, 2009, after the mid-July failure of both star-sensors and some power supply systems.  High levels of solar radiation in the Moon’s tenuous atmosphere affected the units supplying power to two computers on board the spacecraft.  With the loss of radio contact, no commands or data could be sent to or from the spacecraft.

      The spacecraft completed 312 days and more than 3,400 orbits around the Moon, providing a large volume of data from its sophisticated instruments, mapping approximately 90 percent of the lunar surface, and meeting most of the scientific objectives of the mission.


      a lunar crater
      These images show a very young lunar crater on the side of the Moon that faces away from Earth. At left is a view showing brightness at shorter infrared wavelengths. On the right, the distribution of water-rich minerals (light blue) is shown around a small crater. Both water- and hydroxyl-rich materials were found to be associated with material ejected from the crater.

      three-color composite  of the Moon
      M3 took this three-color composite of the Moon, showing reflected near-infrared radiation from the Sun.  It illustrates the extent to which different materials are mapped across the side of the Moon that faces Earth. This image shows the distribution of water and hydroxyl (blue) found at high latitudes toward the poles.
      Credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS
  • Noteworthy
    • Chandrayaan-1 was the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) first mission to the Moon. It was truly an international effort, with 11 scientific instruments built in India, the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. NASA provided two instruments, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or Mini-SAR, in the first high level collaboration between the two space agencies.

      This was a very proud achievement for the people of India. After Chandrayaan-1 entered into lunar orbit, the chairman of ISRO, G. Madhavan Nair, said, "For the first time in the history of India, an Indian-made satellite is circling the Moon. This will be written in the history of Indian space in golden letters."

      miniature replica of India’s maiden moon craft
      A miniature replica of India’s maiden moon craft, Chandrayaan-1.
      Photo: V. Ganesan