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Indian scientists knew about lunar water presence in June

india Updated: Sep 25, 2009 16:46 IST

IANS
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India's first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-I, had made a "path-breaking and real discovery" by establishing the presence of water on the moon in June itself, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said Friday.

India's own Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on board the country's maiden lunar craft had discovered water on the moon in June, a finding confirmed by US space agency NASA's probe that was also on board Chandrayaan-1, India's top space scientist G. Madhavan Nair said here.

While expressing pride in the achievement, Nair clarified: "But the water is not in the form of sea or lake or puddle or drops. It is embedded on the surface in minerals and rocks."

Apart from India's MIP, NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on board Chandrayaan-1 confirmed the presence of water. The lunar mission had to be aborted Aug 30 after it lost radio contact with Earth.

According to Nair, the "quantity found is much larger than expected". On whether water can be extracted, Nair said: "Yes, we can. But one tonne of soil may yield half a litre."

Nair said MIP picked up signals about the presence of water as it journeyed down to land on the moon surface.

"One of the main objectives of Chandrayaan-1 was to look for the presence of water. Our MIP confirmed it."

He said they had indications of the finding "way back in June", but waited all these days to make it public as they wanted the findings to come out in an international scientific journal first.

"The volume of data collected from Chandrayaan-1 is phenomenal. It may take six months to three years to analyse it."

In a paper published in Science Express, Sep 24 edition, M3 principal investigator Carle Pieters said that Chandrayaan-1 found evidence of water on the lunar surface.

The scientist said that traces of water and hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, was found in the lunar soil, closer to the polar region.

The experts concluded that traces of OH and H20 were in the form of a thin layer embedded in rocks and chemical compounds on the surface of the moon and the quantity were extremely small - of the order of about 700 parts per million (ppm).

There were 11 scientific instruments onboard Chandrayaan that ISRO launched Oct 22, 2008.

Pieters credited ISRO for its role in the findings, and said: "If it were not for them (ISRO), we would not have been able to make this discovery."

The scientific feat has been termed a landmark event in international space cooperation between India and other countries.