Chandrayaan-I, India’s first ever lunar mission, and it has found water on the moon. The reports are, allegedly, ‘unambiguous’, but NASA’s remote sensing instruments installed on Chandrayaan-I have clearly indicated that there might be as much as a liter of water in every ton of lunar soil, and that’s lots of water.
The Indian media is in a frenzy of course. I remember the launch of Chandrayaan-I didn’t create much buzz in the mainstream media, in fact Rahul G and Sonia G travelling in 3rd class and Shashi Tharoor tweeting on cattle class got much more coverage.
When Chandrayaan-I was launched on October 22, 2008 from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre there were some who even protested that why India is sending a mission to the moon and wasting money, after all, what purpose can be solved by sending probes and people to the moon? Today’s media hubbub may be because of the NASA conference together with scientists from ISRO where they declared that Chandrayaan-I, along with Deep Impact and Cassini probes, have given evidence of the lunar soil containing traces of water.
Why is Chandrayaan-I finding water on the moon a big discovery?
No doubt it is a proud moment for India and re-establishes its scientific prowess. The brilliant Indian scientists who willingly choose to work in India don’t have enough resources to do their work. Hopefully more attention will be paid to them. India is now definitely on the world map of space science.
Why presence on the moon is important?
Space science is not just about releasing satellites into the orbits, sending deep space probes to find new planets and hopefully life or collecting lunar soil and rocks. Lots of scientific discoveries and inventions take place while scientists are working on space shuttles because of the extreme conditions.
In a few years many countries will be setting up lunar bases to conduct scientific experiments. Highly powerful telescopes will be constructed there so that distant stars, constellations, black holes, comets and planets can be seen more clearly. Countries having easy access to the moon may even set up colonies or generate power there to be beamed back to the earth.
Water on the moon also means there can be life there. This is like jumping the gun, but at least, water being there means that water can be extracted for consumption and irrigation once humans start farming in their lunar enclosures.
Of course the Indian media must acknowledge the contribution of the Moon Mineralogy Mapper – M3 – specifically designed by the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to search for water on the lunar surface. This means it’s not an accidental discovery, and scientists were already expecting such a find. To be precise Chandrayaan-I carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, the US, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria.
This is certainly going to be a big boost for Chandrayaan-II, slated for 2012/2013. It will also give it a precise location to land.