Chandrayaan 2’s data release will include the highest-resolution 3D map of the Moon and information from its 8 high tech instruments

Chandrayaan 2 orbiterISRO
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has planned a public release of this data from Chandrayaan 2 in October.
  • This is the same data that the Indian space agency is already using to create the highest resolution 3D map of the Moon.
  • The data packet will include insights from all eight of the orbiter’s instruments.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it will be publicly releasing all the science data from Chandrayaan-2 for global use. And, this includes the images that went behind creating the highest-resolution 3D map of the Moon.

The orbiter is home to eight out of the 14 payloads, or instruments, that were aboard Chandrayaan-2 when it took off from Earth. Even though Vikram — Chandrayaan 2’s lander — didn’t make it, the orbiter has still been looking high and low for new discoveries, including the presence of water.

3D view of crater near Lindbergh. The triplet images from TMC-2 when processed into Digital Elevation Models, enable mapping of surface landform morphologies. ISRO

ISRO’s highest resolution 3D map of the Moon
The Indian space agency’s initial plans to release the data were scrapped when the 51st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Instead, it released the draft of one of the projects that it was working — the highest resolution 3D map of the Moon. The Chandrayaan 2 orbiter is using the four instruments it has onboard to capture details of what’s on and below the lunar surface.

The 3D representation of the Moon will help serve as a guide to future missions and even point out where large reserves of water or other elements are most likely to be hidden.


List of instruments onboard the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter:

  • Terrain Mapping Camera 2 (TMC 2)
  • Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft Spectrometer (CLASS)
  • Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM)
  • Orbiter High-Resolution Camera (OHRC)
  • Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS)
  • Chandrayaan 2 Atmospheric Compositional Explore 2 (CHASE 2)
  • Dual Frequency Radio Science (DFRS) experiment
The hunt for water on the Moon
One of the main instruments being used to create the map is also a key payload for ISRO in its hunt for water. The Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS) is analysing the surface for the presence of water but it’s also mapping for minerals and volatility.

To support IIRS findings, the Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) will be trying to provide a quantitative estimate of exactly how much is present below the surface.

Data captured by Chandrayaan's SAR instrumentISRO


Peering through the darkness
Using the Orbiter High-Resolution Camera (OHRC) can capture images at 0.25 meters per pixel. The only other instruments going around the Moon that come anywhere close to the same level of accuracy is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that can capture pictures of the Moon at 0.5 meters per pixel.

Close up view of boulders on the lunar surface taken by the OHRC onboard the Chandrayaan 2 orbiterISRO

What makes the data from OHRC even more unique is that it can even capture images during underlit conditions. So, when a particular region may not be illuminated by sunlight, the orbiter will still be able to peer through the darkness to capture the crater floors of the Moon.

The OHRC is working alongside the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC 2), the Imaging Infrared Spectrometer (IIRS), and the Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (DFSAR) to create the 3D map.

The TMC2 has an additional purpose to help scientists on Earth gain a better understanding of the Moon’s evolution.

Minerals and precious metals
One of the instruments not involved in the making of the 3D map but has data of its own to offer is the Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS). It’s on the hunt for major elements like Aluminium, Magnesium, Silicon, Calcium, Sodium, Iron or Titanium near the Moon’s South Pole.

The Solar X-Ray Monitor (XSM) helps CLASS analyse its own data by measuring the intensity of the X-Rays emitted by the Sun and its corona.

Finally, the Chandrayaan 2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 (CHACE 2) has been gathering data from the lunar exosphere to carry an in-situ study of its composition and durability.

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