Brussels, 06 August 2002
An instrument designed to map the surface of the moon, developed by an international team of scientists, was delivered to the European space agency (ESA) on 6 August, ready for mounting on Smart-1, the first of a new generation of European 'smaller, faster, cheaper' spacecraft.
The D-CIXS instrument was developed by researchers from the UK, Finland, France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, the USA and Japan. It is an imaging x-ray spectrometer the size of a toaster and weighing less than five kilograms. Following the launch of Smart-1 in February, the new instrument will provide the first high resolution global x-ray map of the moon, and indicate the extent to which different elements are present on the lunar surface.
'D-CIXS will not only do great science by mapping the Moon's entire surface, giving us evidence of its formation, but it will also demonstrate some extremely novel technologies that will be useful for many future missions of discovery,' said Professor Manuel Grande from the project leader, CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
Scientists are looking forward to information provided by the device which will indicate whether there is a correlation between the rocks on the Moon and those on Earth. Such information will reveal how the Moon was formed and how it evolved. Scientists currently have three theories for this:
- the Moon was formed at the same time as Earth
- the Moon split away from Earth following a large impact
- the Moon was formed elsewhere in space and 'captured' by Earth's gravity.
The instrument's small size means that it will be transported to the ESA site in the Netherlands as hand luggage.
'Of course I'll be treating it with great care,' said Professor Grande, 'but I'm not too worried. Part of its testing involved vigorous shaking, designed to ensure it will survive the violent launch. A short trip in an aeroplane shouldn't be a problem for it,' he said.
The development of the D-CIXS instrument was co-funded by the British national space centre, ESA and the Particle physics and astronomy research council and has a total cost of 1.5 million GBP (around 2.4 million euro).