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