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Lost Soviet rover on moon traced

world Updated: Mar 17, 2010 10:10 IST

In an amazing breakthrough, a Canadian researcher has located the Soviet-era rover Lunokhod-2 stuck on the moon 37 years ago.

Phil Stooke, a professor at departments of physics & astronomy and geography at the University of Western Ontario at London near Toronto solved the 37-year-old mystery using lunar images released Monday by NASA and maps from his own atlas of the moon.

As soon as NASA posted images and data from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO (which will explore moon's surface for safe landing sites, temperature and radiation levels for about a year about 31 miles above its surface) Monday, Stooke used these images and his own atlas to pinpoint the exact location of the stuck Russian rover and its tracks left on the moon 37 years ago during its 35-kilometre trek, a statement in Toronto said on Tuesday.

The journey 37 years ago was the longest any robotic rover has ever been driven on another celestial body, the statement said. "The tracks (of the rover on the moon) were visible at once," said Stooke.

"Knowing the history of the mission, it's possible to trace the rover's activities in fine detail. We can see where it measured the magnetic field, driving back and forth over the same route to improve the data. "And we can also see where it drove into a small crater, and accidentally covered its heat radiator with soil as it struggled to get out again. That ultimately caused it to overheat and stop working. And the rover itself shows up as a dark spot right where it stopped,'' the researcher said.

His findings, he said, would change older maps - published by Russia - about the moon's surface. The Canadian said his next project is on Mars exploration which will include the best maps of the moons of Mars.