October   
2009

Vol 9 - No. 4


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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY


 

Handout picture provided by ISRO shows the surface of the moon taken by Moon Impact Probe after separating from Chandrayaan-1

                   

Chandrayaan-1 finds evidence of Water on Moon

India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I has detected evidence of water across the lunar surface, scientists announced on September 24.

 

It has been reported that Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a NASA instrument onboard Chandrayaan-I, detected wavelengths of reflected light that would indicate a chemical bond between hydrogen and oxygen in materials on the thin layer of upper soil.

 

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper or M3 has confirmed existence of water on moon by analysing the data collected from Chandrayaan-I.

 

The finding ends four-decade long speculation on whether there is water on moon.

 

United News of India quotes Indian Space Resource Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G Madhavan Nair as saying that the ISRO found water on the surface of the moon before the instrument from NASA did. 

Speaking to reporters in Bangalore on September 25, he said that during the first week of the mission which was launched in October last year, the mass spectrometer attached to the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), which was released near the equator got signatures like hydrogen, helium, oxygen, water molecules, carbon dioxide and so on.

"In this signature we could see strong component corresponding to mass number 18, which confirms presence of water," he said.

The MIP, one of the five Indian instruments, took nearly 25 minutes to crash land, before sending a huge amount of data.

He said the scientists had some doubts at that time whether they were some contaminants.

However the team headed by R Sridharan, Programme Director of ISRO's Space Science Office could see a clear trend of increasing magnitude in these water molecules as it as it went towards the poles. This combined well with what had been discovered by moon mineralogy mapper (M3), Mr Nair said.

The ISRO chief stressed that lot more re-calibration and re-analysis had to be done into the finding of water molecules on the moon.

Scientists first claimed that water existed on moon about 40 years ago after they analysed rock samples brought to earth as souvenirs by Apollo astronauts.

 

But they had doubts about the findings as the boxes in which the moon rocks were brought to earth had leaked contaminating the samples with air from the atmosphere.

 

Scientists believe that the water could have been formed due to interaction of oxygen present in rocks and soil on moon with hydrogen in the form of protons emitted by the sun as a result of nuclear fusion.

 

As these protons hit the moon, they break apart oxygen bonds in soil materials, and where free oxygen and hydrogen are together, there's a high chance that trace amounts of water will be formed, said Larry Taylor from the University of Tennessee, who was among the M3 team of scientists.

 

The M3 instrument analysed how sunlight reflected off the lunar surface to identify water particles in which scientists observed elements of chemical bonding alike water.

 

However, the instrument can only see the very uppermost layers of the lunar soil perhaps to a few centimetres below the surface.

 

They studied the light that is reflected in different wavelengths of different minerals, and used those differences to know what is present in the thin layer of upper soil

 

According to the scientists, it was water, previously theorised but not proven to exist only in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles.

 

Taylor and other M3 team members believe their findings will be of particular significance as mankind continues to plan for a return to the moon.

 

The lunar maps created by M3 could provide mission planners with prime locations for extraction of water from the lunar soil.

[Source: Agencies]

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