Scientists at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences have created a laboratory prototype of a device for the future Russian heavy "Lunokhod-Geologist" designed to search for minerals, Igor Mitrofanov, head of the nuclear planetology department of the Space Research Institute, told RIA Novosti.
"With the support of the Russian Science Foundation, we have created a laboratory prototype of the device and tested it at the proton accelerator at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. The experiment has shown that our concept works," Mitrofanov said.
Development took three years. Now scientists intend to offer the device for installation on Russian and foreign landing craft and rovers, designed to study the Moon and Mars. “It is best suited for a lunar rover. Along the route we will be able to determine the elemental composition of the surface in a strip about 30 centimeters wide.
According to him, ordinary gamma spectrometers, which can be installed on interplanetary vehicles, register gamma radiation from the nuclei of matter, caused by the impact of particles of galactic cosmic rays. Each nucleus has its own spectrum of radiation. You can determine the elemental composition of a substance by observing the spectrum lines.
However, the detector can get not only radiation from the substance, but also from the spacecraft itself, then it will "contaminate" the data obtained. To weed out false alarms, Russian scientists decided to combine a gamma detector to determine the composition of a substance with a detector of cosmic ray particles that cause gamma radiation. This will improve the quality of research. First, the device will record the "flight" of a high-energy particle of cosmic radiation, and then the gamma-photon caused by it from the core of the substance of a celestial body, the scientist said. "We can use these observations to determine the elemental composition of matter with high accuracy. This is the idea of the device," Mitrofanov explained.
While moving on the surface, the device will be able to register the presence of the main rock-forming elements at a depth of several tens of centimeters to a meter. In particular, it will be able to conduct geological prospecting in order to search for rare earth or noble metals (these include gold, silver and platinum group metals), but for this the lunar rover will need to stop and stand in place for an hour or two to collect statistics of counts from gamma rays.