In what has given hope to scientists and top space agencies of having a base set up on the Moon, US space agency NASA on Tuesday found a "definitive evidence" of water ice on the surface of the Earth's natural satellite.
In what has given hope to scientists and top space agencies of having a base set up on the Moon, US space agency NASA on Tuesday found a “definitive evidence” of water ice on the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite. The revelation comes after a team of NASA’s scientists were studying data generated by an equipment that had travelled on India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in 2008. NASA’s recent analysis was published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’
In a statement, the US Space agency said, “M3 (NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper) aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft… was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon. It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we’d expect from ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice,” reports The Indian Express.
However, this is not the first time that the trace of water was found on the Moon. This is also not the first time that contribution of India’s spacecraft is being acknowledged in establishing such evidence.
The first confirmation about the presence of water on the Moon through the same M3 equipment was announced in September 2009. Then, NASA had announced that there was “unambiguous evidence” of the presence of water across the lunar surface on the Moon. The announcement was made after the detailed analysis of M3 data and the observations of NASA’s EPOXI spacecraft.
NASA’s proclamation was seen as the final truth of the presence of water on the Moon. The molecules of water were found mostly in the Moon’s polar regions. Later, the US Space agency had declared that ‘Moon Impact Probe’ (MIP), another key equipment of Chandrayaan-1 also established the evidence of water’s presence on the Moon’s surface. MIP (35 kg) is a cube-shaped instrument with the Indian Tricolour, is first India’s equipment to land on the moon.
The then Chairman of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), G Madhavan Nair had said, “There was an instrument inside MIP that was supposed to assess the moisture content in Moon’s surface. It gave us a distinct signature (of the presence of water). But unfortunately, there were some calibration anomalies in the data because of which we could not have quantified the amount of water content. As a result, we were not in a position to publish the results,” IE reports. The then ISRO chief also added that data of the instrument will be very useful in proving the presence of water.
After NASA’s declaration, several research and studies were conducted and all proved the presence of water on the Moon’s surface. In 2013, a team of US scientists examined the same M3 data and found magmatic water on the Moon. In a statement, the US space agency had said that it showed, “the first detection of this form of water from lunar orbit”.
In 2017, another team of US scientists re-examined the data and detected the first map of the distribution of water on the lunar surface. The revelation showed that water was spread across the Moon. The latest discovery of solid ice takes the finding one step forward. In a statement, the US space body said, “Most of the newfound water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above -250°F (-150°C). Because of the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions,” IE reports.