Did Chandrayaan find water on Moon’s surface?

Did India’s maiden Moon mission Chandrayaan-1 find water on the lunar surface before the project was aborted? There were indications on Tuesday that it had. An announcement about a ‘‘major discovery’’ made by Chandrayaan-I is expected on Thursday, and the buzz is that this could be about water on the Moon. If true, credit for this much-awaited discovery, however, could go to Nasa’s Moon Minerology Mapper (M3), one of the payloads on board Chandrayaan. The Rs 386-crore craft was launched on October 22 last year and terminated on August 30 following a communication failure. One of the mission’s main goals was to sniff for water. For now, neither Isro nor Nasa is speaking about the discovery. An announcement is expected at a media interaction scheduled for Thursday at the Nasa headquarters in Washington DC featuring well-known lunar scientist Carle Pieters from Brown University. She is the principal investigator for M3. Efforts by TOI to call Pieters failed. A spokesman for Brown University also declined comment, saying there was an embargo. “It will be a major announcement of a major discovery and is something great for Chandrayaan. It will mark a major leap for India’s space programme,” he said. An Isro official at Sriharikota also confirmed that a major announcement was expected on Thursday. ‘‘I too have heard something to that effect. Nothing more,’’ he said. If the discovery of water proves true, then it could trigger another round of Moon missions, and start serious hunt for life in outer space. India has not ruled out the possibility of a manned lunar flight. Isro-Nasa to jointly look for water on Moon.  Five minutes before midnight on August 20, India’s Rs 386 crore Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1 will cross an important milestone when it teams up with Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in search of water ice, said Chandrayaan project director Mylaswamy Annadurai on Thursday.

Speaking to TOI hours before the joint lunar flight, Annadurai said both the spacecraft will move simultaneously picking up data. “It will be a brief flight leading to an exchange of information. There will be a combined analysis of both the data,” he said. Both the spacecraft will fly at a velocity of about 1.6km per second and survey an area on the Moon’s north pole which is 18km across. The historic combined flight will be tracked by Isro’s deep space network at Byalalu, Bangalore and Nasa’s deep space network and Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, US. Annadurai had been quoted as saying that the launch of LRO will lead to co-ordinated operations between both spacecraft. LRO was launched on June 18, 2009 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Pradeep Mohandas, a space expert, described the flight as an important step in Indo-US space collaboration. It will be what is known as a “bi-static” radar experiment when both the spacecraft will be in close proximity 200km above the Moon’s surface. Both are equipped with radar instruments — Mini-Sar (Synthetic Aperture Radar) on Chandrayaan-1 and Mini-Rf on LRO. Explaining how they will operate, Isro officials said the two instruments will target the same spot on the Moon from different angles with Chandra-yaan-1’s radar transmitting a signal which will be reflected off interior of Erlanger Crater. This will be picked up by LRO. They said scientists will then compare the signal that bounces straight back to Chandrayaan-1 with the signal that bounces at a slight angle to LRO.  news from  timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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