A team of international scientists has found proof of water molecules on the moon’s surface for the first time ever, using data from India’s recently terminated Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission.
The report was published on Wednesday in the online edition of the journal Science.
The discovery is a breakthrough for scientists who have long studied the possibility of water on the moon, and provides insight into how the moon may have been formed.
“If these molecules are there, the possibility [of water on the moon] exists,” said Jitendra Nath Goswami, director the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory and one of the authors of the study that involved US scientists.
The team arrived at the conclusion after studying data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an instrument created by the US-based NASA and placed aboard Chandrayaan-1.
The data has been corroborated by observations from NASA’s Deep Impact mission.
The NASA space mission had studied the moon for a week in June at the request of the researchers, Goswami said. “These observations may lead to a paradigm shift in our views of the moon and open new vistas for lunar exploration,” he said.
Though the data came from a NASA instrument, researchers credited Chandrayaan-1 for its part in the discovery. “If it weren’t for [Chandrayaan-1], we wouldn’t have been able to make this discovery,” said Carle Pieters, a professor at Brown University and lead author of the study.
The scientists estimate that up to 32 ounces of water could be harvested from a ton of lunar soil or rock.