Discovery of the Century: Water Found on Moon by Indian Space Mission Chandrayaan

In a landmark discovery, India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I has found evidence of water on the lunar surface, a finding that could trigger a serious hunt for life in outer space.

Dreams of establishing a manned Moon base could become reality within two decades after India’s first lunar mission found evidence of large quantities of water on its surface.

Data from Chandrayaan-1 also suggests that water is still being formed on the Moon. Scientists said the breakthrough — to be announced by NASA at a press conference today — would change the face of lunar exploration.

The confirmation of elevated water molecules in the moon’s polar regions by India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 raises new questions about its origin and effect on the mineralogy of the moon, US scientists say.

“Water ice on the moon has been something of a holy grail for lunar scientists for a very long time,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This surprising finding has come about through the ingenuity, perseverance and international cooperation between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).”

NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3, instrument reported the observations. M3 was carried into space on Oct. 22, 2008, aboard the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

By establishing the presence of water signatures on moon, the country's maiden lunar mission made a "path- breaking" and "real discovery", ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said at a press conference in Bangalore.

The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) while descending from Chandrayaan-I to moon, picked up strong signals of water particles, he said.

"However, the signatures of waters are not in the form of sea, lake or even as a puddle or not even a drop. You cannot pick it up just like that," he said.

"It is embedded on the surface in the minerals and rocks and we have clear indication that the hydroxil (OH) as water molecules are present on the surface, may be at least for a few millimeters," he said. According to Nair, the "quantity found is much larger than what was expected which is a real finding".

Apart from India's MIP, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) of NASA on board Chandrayaan-I also confirmed the presence of water.

"The volume of data collected from Chandrayaan-1 is phenomenal. Our computers in ISRO and NASA are filled up with information. It may take six months to three years to analyze it," he said.

M3 was one of two NASA instruments among 11 pieces of equipment from around the world on Chandrayaan-1, which was launched into orbit around the Moon in October last year. ISRO lost control of Chandrayaan-1 last month, and aborted the mission ahead of schedule, but not before M3 and the other instruments had beamed data back to Earth.

Another lunar scientist familiar with the findings said: “This is the most exciting breakthrough in at least a decade. And it will probably change the face of lunar exploration for the next decade.”

Scientists are eagerly awaiting the results of two American unmanned lunar missions, which were both launched in June, that could also prove the existence of water on the Moon.

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