London, September 24 (ANI): Data from Chandrayaan-1, India's first lunar mission, has revealed the presence of large quantities of water on the surface of the Moon, a discovery that is a significant boost for India in its space race against China.
ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) lost control of Chandrayaan-1 last month, and aborted the mission ahead of schedule, but not before M3 and the other instruments had beamed data back to Earth.
According to a report in The Times, water was found by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), designed specifically to search for water by picking up the electromagnetic radiation emitted by minerals.
M3 was one of two NASA instruments among 11 pieces of equipment from around the world on Chandrayaan-1, which was launched into orbit around the Moon in October last year.
The M3, an imaging spectrometer, was designed to search for water by detecting the electromagnetic radiation given off by different minerals on and just below the surface of the Moon.
Unlike previous lunar spectrometers, it was sensitive enough to detect the presence of small amounts of water.
The M3 also made the unexpected discovery that water may still be forming on the surface of the Moon, according to scientists familiar with the mission.
"It's very satisfying," said Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, the project director of Chandrayaan-1 at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore.
"This was one of the main objectives of Chandrayaan-1, to find evidence of water on the Moon," he told The Times.
This will also provide a significant boost for India as it tries to catch up with China in what many see as a 21st-century space race.
"This will create a considerable stir. It was wholly unexpected," said one scientist also involved in Chandrayaan-1.
"People thought that Chandrayaan was just lagging behind the rest but the science that's coming out, it's going to be agenda-setting," the scientist added.
Scientists have long hoped that astronauts could be based on the Moon and use water found there to drink, extract oxygen to breathe and use hydrogen as fuel.
Several studies have suggested that there could be ice in the craters around the Moon's poles, but scientists have been unable to confirm the suspicions.
According to another lunar scientist familiar with the findings, "This is the most exciting breakthrough in at least a decade. And it will probably change the face of lunar exploration for the next decade." (ANI)