The much-heralded discovery of water molecules on the moon — a scientific finding that completely upends the previous scientific consensus that the moon is entirely dry — may have been an in-house affair, according to top scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The Moon Impact Probe, an Indian lunar rover aboard Chandrayaan-1, detected the presence of water on its way down to land on the moon’s surface, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair announced on Friday on national television.
“We truly believe it is a path-breaking discovery,” Nair said. “The quantity of water was more than we expected.”
Nair said the Moon Impact Probe took close-up photos that indicated the presence of water. The probe’s mission was to land on the moon and make close-range observations of the lunar surface, according to ISRO’s Web site. The instrument, which was designed by ISRO, is 375 by 470 millimetres, a little larger than a standard shoe box.
The lunar water discovery was confirmed by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an instrument created by the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and carried aboard Chandrayaan-1.
Two other NASA missions, not affiliated with Chandrayaan-1, also confirmed the presence of water on the moon.
Chandrayaan-1, which completed 95 per cent of its scientific objectives despite being terminated a year ahead of schedule, has brought back a vast amount of new data about the moon, scientists agree. It could take years to sort through all the mission’s findings, Nair said.
When Chandrayaan-1 was launched on October 22, 2008, it carried a record 11 projects by scientists from seven nations.