Chandrayaan's NASA probe finds water on the moon

It is a giant leap for India’s space programme and the biggest scientific discovery of the 21st Century. India’s maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, has found water, a discovery that scientists say will upend thinking about space and boost research. And, of course, it has helped shake off the failure tag from the Rs 386-crore Chandrayaan-I project that was aborted last month. The historic development took place just prior to the termination of the mission on August 30, 2009. Although water was spotted by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a Nasa probe and one of the 11 payloads on the spacecraft, glory shone on Isro for the discovery that was made after nearly five decades of lunar exploration by Western nations. ‘‘If it weren’t for Isro, we would not have been able to make this discovery,’’ said Carle Pieters, a planetary geologist at Brown University who analyzed the data from the Nasa probe. She added that the discovery ‘‘opens a whole new avenue of lunar research but we have to understand the physics of it to utilize it’’. A Brown University statement on Thursday said, ‘‘The discovery by M3 promises to reinvigorate studies of the moon and potentially upend thinking of how it originated.’’ Later, Nasa scientists, addressing a press conference, thanked Isro for its “incredibly crucial role” and said they were still studying the data sent from Chandrayaan. Water molecules and hydroxyl — a charged molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom—were discovered across the moon’s surface. The M3 had covered 97% of the moon before Chandrayaan-1 was terminated. Brown University scientists say while the abundance is not exactly known, ‘‘as much as 1,000 water molecule parts per million could be in the lunar soil: harvesting one tonne of the top layer of the moon’s surface would yield 32 ounces of water’’

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