Pictured: First look inside moon's shadowed craters as Nasa searches for water ice

The first images of the moon's coldest, darkest craters are being studied by scientists, after they were captured by a radar flying aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

The grainy black and white images show the floors of permanently-shadowed polar craters on the moon that aren't visible from Earth.

Enlarge   crater



NASA are studying moon craters for water ice, which would prove useful for a future manned moon landing. Pictured is Edwin Aldrin on 20 July, 1969

Scientists are using Nasa's radar instrument (Mini-SAR) to map and search the insides of the craters for water ice.

The images, taken on November 17, 2008, cover part of the Haworth crater at the moon's south pole and the western rim of Seares crater, an impact feature near the north pole.

Bright areas in each image represent either surface roughness or slopes pointing toward the spacecraft.

North polar

North polar

Scientists believe further analysis will help them to determine if buried ice deposits exist in the permanently shadowed craters near the moon's poles.

'The only way to explore such areas is to use an orbital imaging radar such as Mini-SAR,' said Benjamin Bussey, from Johns Hopkins University.

'This is an exciting first step for the team which has worked diligently for more than three years to get to this point.'

Mini-SAR is one of 11 instruments on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 and one of two Nasa-sponsored contributions to its international payload.

The other is the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution.

The data from the two Nasa instruments will prove useful as America goes forward with its plans to return man to the moon.

Chandrayaan-1 launched from India's Satish Dhawan Space Centre on October 21 and began orbiting the moon on November 8.

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