Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

How Chandrayaan-1 helped confirm and reconfirm water on the Moon

The News

Scientists from NASA have observed definitive evidence of water ice on the Moon’s surface using data from Moon Minerology Mapper aboard Chandrayaan-1


Key Highlights

  • Data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper confirmed the presence of solid ice on the Moon by spotting a distinctive signature of water ice:
    • Albedo: Studying the reflective properties of ice.
    • Near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy: Measuring the way ice molecules absorb infrared light differentiating them from liquid water or vapour.
  • The solid ice discovered lies mostly in the shadows of craters near the poles where the maximum temperature reaches about -150°C.
  • At the southern pole (Fig 1), most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely spread (Fig 2).




  • The patchy distribution of ice can help us understand the unique formation and evolution process of moon.
  • With enough ice sitting at the surface this could help sustain astronauts, on human moon missions, for longer.


Evidence of water on Moon: A Timeline

  • Earlier in 2009, data from M3 revealed water and a related molecule hydroxyl H1O1, were present across the entire surface of moon.
  • ISRO’s hyperspectral imager aboard Chandrayaan, corroborated the evidence.
  • Further Moon Impact Probe, a 35-kg cube-shaped instrument, had produced compelling evidence of water on the Moon.
  • In August 2013, a team of US scientists using M3 data detected magmatic water, “or water that originates within the Moon’s interior”, on the lunar surface.
  • In 2017, using data taken from M3, scientists had created the first quantitative global map of water on the Moon’s soil.
  • In February 2018, NASA presented fresh evidence of water being “widely distributed” across the surface.


About Chandrayaan-1

  • Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first mission to the moon.
  • The lunar orbiter was launched aboard PSLV-C11 in Oct., 2008.
  • It is best known for helping to discover evidence of water molecules on the moon.
  • It orbited the moon for almost a year (between October 2008 and August 2009).
  • Its major goal was to collect data on moon’s geology, mineralogy and topography.



About Chandrayaan-2

  • The ISRO is developing a successor mission called Chandrayaan-2, expected to be launched in January, 2019.
  • India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will have
    • A rover onto the Moon’s surface, 600km from the lunar south pole
    • An orbiter above searches for water.
  • Main Objectives:
    • The 6-wheeled rover will study the land crust for traces of water and helium-3.
    • Helium-3 makes fusion reactors non-radioactive (because there’s no radioactive tritium) and also more efficient.


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