The director of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and principal scientific investigator of the data Chandrayaan-I brought to earth, Jitendranath Goswami, told Sanjib Kr Baruah in an e-mail interview that the most significant finding was water on the Moon's north pole. Excerpts:
What is the significance of the water find on the Moon?
It changed our perception. The Moon was considered bone dry, based on the study of the samples brought back by the Apollo and Luna missions in the 1970s. It is now confirmed to be not so dry. The presence of water molecules on the lunar surface and on the sub-surface in solid form (ice) is a major discovery in lunar science.
Is finding water on the Moon something like a stepping-stone for more exploration activity?
The main ingredient needed for any long-term robotic or human exploration activities on the surface of any other closeby solar system objects (the Moon and Mars) is in situ resource. Natural sunlight and water are the two most useful resources. Sunlight may be used to generate power and water that consists of oxygen and hydrogen, can be used in many different ways. It is not practical to think of carrying resources to the Moon or Mars for a long period of exploration.
Do we have the technology to realise the full potential of the find?
We have just initiated a robotic exploration of other objects in the solar system. A logical step forward will be to think of the technology needed to harness the resources.
Has the Chandrayaan mission achieved most of its objectives?
I don’t think so. There are many scientific results that have been published, besides the presence of water molecules. We will analyse the data.
How do we fare in space technology compared to the Americans?
India started planetary exploration recently. It is not proper to go into comparison with those who have been working on this for more than 40 years. In areas such as remote sensing technology and application, we are second to none. The most significant aspect of our space technology policy is the focus on indigenous development. ISRO is doing an excellent job.