The confirmation of the presence of water on the moon by Chandrayaan-I probes will open vast opportunities for space research, says G. Madhavan Nair, former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

For one thing, water available on the moon could be split into oxygen and hydrogen using sunlight and the oxygen could be used by human explorers while the hydrogen could be used as fuel.

This could reduce the necessity to carry expensive payloads of oxygen and fuel by future space missions. This could drastically cut the cost of space research. At present, every kilogram of payload cost $50,000, thus making space explorations prohibitively expensive.

“It is a path-breaking finding,” Mr. Nair, who was at the helm of the Chandrayaan-I project, said in his K.P. Hormis Memorial Lecture here on Thursday. “It is one of the greatest findings from the space exploration.” (NASA had early this week announced that its radar onboard India's lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-I had detected vast ice deposits near the moon's north pole.)

Mr. Nair, talking on ‘Technological challenges for national development,' said investment in research and development in science and technology was meagre in India and this needs to be scaled up drastically so that science and technology could contribute to national development.

He urged financial institutions to set apart a share of their financial resources for technological initiatives as a breed of venture capitalists was yet to rise in India.

Mr. Nair highlighted improving agricultural productivity as a major technological challenge for Indian scientists as the country needed to grow more food to feed its billion-plus population.

Harnessing nuclear power to jack up energy availability was another major challenge. This needed heavy investment as atomic power cost four times more than thermal power. Use of nanotechnology and other cutting-edge technologies need to be improved vastly so that healthcare is available to India's vast rural masses. Water management was another key technological challenge as, Mr. Nair noted, in another 10 years, water would cost as much as petrol.

The lecture was organised by Fedbank Hormis Memorial Foundation to commemorate the founder of Federal Bank, K.P. Hormis. M. Venugopalan, managing director and CEO of Federal Bank, was in the chair.

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