Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nasa Probe On Chandrayaan Finds Water On Moon

Nasa Probe On Chandrayaan Finds Water On 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, that TOI in a global newsbreak reported in Wednesday’s edition, 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 them (Isro), we wouldn’t have been able to make this discovery,” Carle Pieters, the Brown University researcher who analyzed the data from the Nasa probe.

Pieters, a planetary geologist, has told scientists the discovery “opens a whole new avenue of lunar research but that 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”. Water molecules (H2O) and hydroxyl — a charged molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom — were discovered across the surface of the Moon. The M3 had covered almost 97% of the Moon before Chandrayaan-1 was terminated. Brown University scientists say that while the abundance is not precisely known, “as much as 1,000 water molecule parts-permillion could be in the lunar soil: harvesting one tonne of the top layer of the Moon’s surface would yield as much as 32 ounces of water”.

Isro chairman Madhavan Nair described it a path-breaking event and Chandrayaan-I project director Mylswamy Annadurai called it one of the greatest examples in international collaboration in space. Chandrayaan’s surprise find triggered tremendous excitement among Indian space scientists who were disappointed that the mission cause of down. sociated TOI from observation the main programme had to be terminated be- communication break- Bhandari, who is as- with Chandrayaan, told Ahmedabad: “It is a good and after all it was one of aims of the Indian Moon .

What’s Been Found? Very fine films of water on dust particles on lunar surface

How Much Water Is There? If you squeeze a cubic metre of lunar dust, you’ll get a litre of water How Was It Seen?

Nasa’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on board Chandrayaan detected water from electromagnetic radiation emanating from different minerals and just below lunar surface

Why Is It A Big Deal?

Potentially, humans could live there. They could split water into oxygen (for breathing) and hydrogen (for rocket fuel). Also, there could be water in other planets too

Why Did Scientists Miss Water Earlier?

There were traces of moisture on rock samples brought back by other Apollo missions but scientists weren’t sure if the moisture was deposited after these were brought back Big boost for future rocket launches

Bangalore/Mumbai: According to well-known astrophysicist SM Chitre, water on the Moon could have been deposited by the comets several billion years ago. “The comets are like water carriers,” he told TOI.

Regarding the significance of the discovery, Chitre said it will have far reaching consequences with regard to the human colonization of the Moon and future rocket launches from the lunar surface. “The real significance of this mission is that it surveyed the entire Moon. Nasa’s Apollo manned missions between 1969 and 1972 did not find any water at all because they surveyed only a bare 25% of the lunar surface,” he said.

President of National Space Society (NSS) Suresh Naik told TOI finding water will help in making rocket fuel. “Launching rockets from the Moon definitely have an advantage because the escape velocity is much less than on Earth,” he said. On Earth, the escape velocity, ie, the speed a rocket needs to escape the Earth’s gravity, is 11km per second. With the Moon’s gravity being one-sixth that of the Earth’s, the escape velocity would be much less, he explained. In plain terms, it means less energy is needed to launch rockets from the Moon.

The US, Russia and China are exploring the possibility of building human habitats on the Moon after 2020. Space experts said that in this race, India cannot lag behind and Isro officials also have not ruled this out.

Pieters said findings from M3 reveal new questions about “where the water molecules come from and where they may be going”. Scientists have for long speculated that water molecules may migrate from non-polar regions of the Moon to the poles, where they are stored as ice in ultra-frigid pockets of craters that never receive sunlight. If, indeed, the water molecules are mobile, there is then the possibility of getting water to the permanently shadowed craters.

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