Friday, September 25, 2009

Chandrayaan-1 was 110% success, says ISRO chief

A day after the path-breaking revelation by the international scientific community that India's maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-I has succeeded in tracking presence of water on the lunar surface, ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair today said that the mission was 110 per cent success.

Disagreeing with the 'media version that Chandrayaan-I crashed or failed', Nair said, "Earlier, I had said the mission was a 95 per cent success. Now I say it is 110 per cent success."

The ISRO chairman said the Moon Impact Probe (MIP), one of the five Indian scientific instruments that were onboard the Chandrayaan spacecraft detected the presence of water on lunar surface which was confirmed by Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which was also onboard the spacecraft. By establishing the presence of water signatures on moon, the country's maiden lunar mission made a "path- breaking" and "real discovery", Nair added.

Launched in October last year, India's first scientific mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-I was aborted prematurely last month when Indian space agency lost the communication link with the spacecraft. ISRO had to abandon the mission failing to establish radio contact with the orbiting spacecraft.

Even though ISRO had got the indications about the finding of water in June this year, the space agency had decided to wait till yesterday to make the announcement as they wanted to come out in a scientific journal first. Earlier on Thursday, M3 principal investigator Carle Pieters said that Chandrayaan-1 found evidence of water on the lunar surface in a paper published in Science Express, September 24 edition.

The analysis of the M3 data was carried out by a joint team of scientists from the US and India led by Pieters, a planetary geologist at Brown University in Rhode Island, and J N Goswami, principal scientist of Chandrayaan-I from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) of the Department of Space.

Nair said, the discovery of water in lunar surface was 'very crucial' and could have implications in various future planetary missions, even though the amount of water was 'extremely small'. "That is a great finding as far as space community is concerned."

To a query whether the water can be extracted from the lunar surface, Nair said, it was possible using 'novel techniques'. "But we may get only half a litre of water from one tonne of soil, and that is a real challenge."

J P Goswami, principal scientist of ISRO said the MIP had picked up strong signals of water particles towards polar region from 70 degree latitude to 80 degree latitudes. "In the polar region, it might be more, but it is produced all over the lunar surface," he said, adding ""This is the first time in space research that the presence of water is confirmed. It has shattered the thought that the moon was bone dry."

The other instruments which were on board the Chandrayaan spacecraft have sent many valuable information about the chemical and mineral composition of the moon which are being analysed now and would be announced in due course. "The volume of data collected from Chandrayaan-I is phenomenal. Our computers in ISRO and NASA are filled up with information. It may take six months to three years to analyse it," Goswami said.

Meanwhile, ISRO is looking at a 'mid-course correction' of the Chandrayaan-II mission objective, following the findings from the first mission. Chandrayaan-II scheduled to be launched in 2013 will carry rovers which will drill the lunar surface and sent the data to the earth after analysing it.

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