Education and Public Outreach

What is Moon Mineralogy Mapper?

Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3, or “m-cube”) is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals of which the moon is made. The high resolution M3 spectra, in conjunction with data from other Chandrayaan-1 instruments, could provide critically important information regarding the geologic history and evolution of the Moon, a cornerstone in understanding the evolution of the terrestrial planets, Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars.

How big is the M3 team?

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3, or “m-cube”) team consists of nearly 50 engineers and scientists, post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students from over a dozen universities and research institutions here in the United States.

How does the M3 map the moon?

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3, or “m-cube”) is based on the principle of reflectance spectroscopy, a measure of the different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (sunlight) that reflect off a particular surface – in this case, the Moon. To characterize, or identify, the composition of the lunar rocks and minerals, the M3 instrument will detect electromagnetic radiation in the visible light and the near-infrared wavelengths.

What is Chandrayaan-1?

Chandrayaan-1 is India’s first mission to the Moon. The main objective is the investigation of the distribution of various minerals and chemical elements and high-resolution three-dimensional mapping of the entire lunar surface.

How long will it take before M3 starts to work?

Approximately a month after launch we anticipate we can begin scientific observations.

Why is it important to map the lunar landscape?

The Moon's geological record preserves the formative years of planetary history, a period largely lost on the Earth. Knowledge of the distribution and configuration of the mineralogy of the lunar crust will enable sophisticated and far-reaching scientific exploration of the Moon in the future. M3 and Chandrayaan-1 data will be harvested continually in the decades ahead in order to identify and characterize landing and exploration sites and to locate resources necessary to help support future explorers of the Moon and Mars.

Why is the launch in India?

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3, or “m-cube”) is one of six guest instruments, developed by countries other than India, that will is carried aboard Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the Moon. Chandrayaan-1 will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from India’s SDSC launch facility, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR, at Sriharikota.

How long has M3 been in the works?

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3, or “m-cube”) was proposed in 2004 and selected as a NASA Discovery Mission of Opportunity in February of 2005. Instrument Principal Investigator, Dr. Carle Pieters of Brown University and Instrument Scientist, Dr. Rob Green of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been working together since then to design, build, and test the instrument with an expert team of engineers and scientists from across the United States and India.

How does that this mission to map the moon impact / affect us on earth? – help us?

Much of the Earth’s early geologic history has been erased by its dynamic processes; e.g., plate tectonics and weathering. We can learn a lot about the early Earth by understanding the process that helped to form and modify the Moon and its surface. For example, impact craters provide windows to the subsurface – permitting us to characterize and map different geologic units and ages of materials. Similarly, variations in lunar volcanic landforms can tell us about changes in the history of a planet’s interior – as these features provide clues to the temperature, composition and variation of their source material. A detailed map of lunar resources, possibly including water, 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.

What agencies are involved in this mission?

Indian Space Research Organization – ISRO (spacecraft and 5 instruments) National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA (2 instruments) European Space Agency – ESA (3 instruments) Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1 instrument)