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Chandrayaan-1 Payload Spotlight #1: Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) November 9, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Chandrayaan-1, Chandrayaan-1 Payload Features, Chang'e, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organization, Kaguya, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, selenography.
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Today is the first in a series of features on each of India‘s recently-launched Chandrayaan-1‘s scientific payloads.

The Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter (which just Saturday reached lunar orbit) has 11 scientific instruments onboard to complete an array of measurements: five Indian instruments, and six from other nations and organizations (including the ESA and NASA). Japan and China launched similar missions last year, but not with foreign instruments onboard.
This chart below, from the ISRO, shows what types of ‘coverage’ the payloads as a unit have:
As I cover each of the eleven payloads in individual posts over the next few weeks, I’m going to alternate between the Indian and foreign payloads.

Without further ado, here’s your spotlight on the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC).

Terrain Mapping Camera

An Indian instrument, the first payload being featured here was also the first one to be tested.

It’s mostly as it sounds: a high-resolution camera that can take black and white photographs of the lunar surface (with a 5m spatial resolution–“the ability to distinguish between two closely spaced objects on an image“–in 20km swaths[PDF] ), with the intent to map the entire topography of the moon (including the dark side and the poles) at that 5m resolution; creating the most high-resolution, detailed map of the lunar surface to date. Such maps exist of Mars, but not of the Moon.

NASA’s Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission set for next year will have similar, if more powerful, camera and mapping systems. These kinds of maps will clearly be useful for the planning stages of the eventual lunar colonies and for other efforts.

The power of the TMC could well be enough to finally settle one thing for NASA ahead of time, though: it could photograph the Apollo and other NASA craft on the Moon’s surface, hopefully putting all those conspiracy theories to rest. :)

Here’s a picture from the ISRO of the TMC itself:


And, last but not least, one of the test images the camera took of Earth (high resolution here):


For every technical detail you ever wanted to know about the TMC, see this PDF.

Check back within the next couple of days for the next feature, on one of the Chandrayaan-1’s foreign payloads, as well as for any other updates on the moon mission’s progress that may come along :)

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