A day after the ground-breaking discovery of water on the moon hit the headlines, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair on Friday said the Chandrayaan-1 detected water on the lunar surface as early as June 2009.
The indigenously developed Moon Impact Probe (MIP), which crash-landed at a designated site on the lunar south pole on November 14, 2008, picked up “clear signatures” of water during its 25-minute descent, Mr. Nair said at a press conference here on Friday.
Analysis of the data from a mass spectrometer on the MIP pointed to the presence of water. The cuboid probe also bore the Tricolour, thus “planting the Indian flag” on the moon when it landed.
This finding was later “confirmed” by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), which was supplied by the United States. While ISRO knew about water presence “way back in June” it waited for the findings of the M3 to be published in Science this week before announcing it, Mr. Nair said.
Being the nearest object to the earth, the moon could become a base for space exploration and a resource not just for water but also for fuel, said Mr. Nair when asked about the significance of the finding. “It was also a fine example of how the international scientific community can work together.”
The new insights into the moon’s composition and presence of water molecules could prompt a “revisit” to the scientific goals of the Chandrayaan-2, which is being readied for a 2013 launch.
The mission so far included two rovers (one developed by the Russian space agency and the other by ISRO) which would move on the lunar surface to pick up soil for chemical analysis. The scientific instruments that the mission would carry were being debated, Mr. Nair said.