Chandrayaan-I data confirms presence of ice on Moon: NASA

Aug 22, 2018 16:30 IST
Chandrayaan-I data confirms presence of ice on Moon: NASA

The NASA scientists, using data from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft, on August 21, 2018 confirmed that there are frozen water deposits in the darkest and coolest parts of Moon’s Polar Regions. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The Study

A team of scientists led by Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii and Brown University and including Richard Elphic from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley used data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

M3 was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.

It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties, but was able to directly measure the way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapor and solid ice.

The Findings

Scientists have directly observed definitive evidence of water ice in the darkest and coldest parts of Polar Regions of the Moon.

At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely and lightly spread.

The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient.

Most of the newfound water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degrees Celsius (-250 degrees Fahrenheit).   

Due to the very small tilt of the Moon's rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.

Significance of the Findings

With enough ice sitting at the surface within the top few millimeters, water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon.

It will potentially be easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon’s surface.

India's first mission to the Moon: Chandrayaan-1

Chandrayaan-1 was India's first mission to the moon.

It was launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on October 22, 2008 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket.

It operated for almost a year between October 2008 and August 2009.

Its major goal was to collect data about the moon's geology, mineralogy and topography.

The spacecraft is best known for helping scientists to discover evidence of water molecules on the moon.

ISRO is now developing a successor mission called Chandrayaan-2, which is expected to launch in 2018-19.