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Moon rock safe in India

india Updated: Sep 15, 2009 20:34 IST
Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra
Hindustan Times
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The rocks on which he has been working for the past few decades are not only priceless but literally out of the world - moon rocks.

Director Physical Research Laboratory J.N. Goswami is the Principal Investigator of the moon rocks in India.

Talking to the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, he said, "We have small samples of moon rock and lunar soil from all Apollo missions including Apollo 11, Apollo,12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16, Apollo 17 and also Russian Luna 16,Luna 20, Luna 24 missions."

"The main scientific topic of research at PRL has been the study of solar flare activity in the past millions to billion year records imprinted in lunar rocks and soils because of the absence of an atmosphere and magnetic field on moon.Some of the results obtained in this has been acclaimed internationally," Goswami said.

Referring to the new reports that moon rocks were reaching the black market he said, "I do not think it is possible for those received it officially for scientific analyses."

"The Moon rock samples officially in India are with me in our laboratory and are kept safe and secure," he said.

The only place where India officially has the moon rock is Physical Research Laboratory , a unit of Indian Space Research Organisation.

He said NASA has kept 90 per cent of the moon rocks brought from moon for posterity and only ten per cent has been kept for distribution for scientific analyses.

Initially Senior Professor Dr Devendra Lal, head of Geophysics Research Group at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai had been given the moon rock sample from NASA way back in 1971.

Dr Lal had also accompanied the first moon rock tour through several cities of India in 1969 when the moon rock was kept encased in nitrogen filled clear hemisphere, and public made long queues to have just a glimpse.

The moon rock samples from TIFR were later moved to the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahemadabad when Prof Lal moved to PRL.

Goswami said, "The moon rock samples are officially obtained as a loan from NASA through diplomatic channel and we have to follow strict guidelines not only to procure the samples for research purposes but on how to perform our investigations and also keep strict inventory of its use for scientific analyses."

Every year a status of the sample is provided to NASA and every year third year the permission to keep the sample has to be renewed, he said.

One third of the samples have already been returned from India to NASA, he said.

During our research we have to grind,polish the rock and even heat the sample at times. We are allowed to carry out these tests as part of our destructive analyses but have to record all these in detail to be sent to NASA, he added.