Science

For ISRO, finding water is the key

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on July 22, 2019

Finding water is the mission for Chandrayaan-2, and it has three experiments specially designed for this hunt.

For Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, the biggest discovery was evidence of water molecules on the lunar surface. The discovery by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was welcomed more with disbelief and there were a few takers initially, recalls Syed Maqbool Ahmed, whose experiment it was to explore for water on the Moon.

But years later even the US space agency, NASA, acknowledged ISRO’s finding.

Now, Chandrayaan-2 is geared to further study the extent and distribution of the water on and below the surface, and in the tenuous lunar exosphere. Three of the 13 robust scientific instrumentations it is carrying are to do just this once the Orbiter (Vikram) and the Lander (Pragyan) soft land on the Moon’s South Pole region round September 7.

Finding the existence of water, which holds the key to possible human habitation in the future, is high on the priority not just for ISRO, but also for NASA , which is planning a ‘return man to the Moon mission’ by 2024, to explore habitation and further extra planetary research. Chandrayaan-2 is also carrying this time NASA’s reflector mirror instrument to aid in the search fo water.

“The chance discovery of water was based on a one time, 20-minute shot of the lunar surface on the experiment I devised for the purpose,” recalls Ahmed, who was with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, during 2004-2009.

“In Chandrayaan-2, there is scope for finding physical evidence as the Lander will explore the Southern Polar region, where the probability of water is higher and the mission is to last at least a year,” Ahmed, who is now with the University of Hyderabad told BusinessLine.

Reacting to the successful launch, he said “ISRO has been very cautious, ready to take any criticism and has rightly come up with a smooth and fantastic launch. The GSLV has been a tough challenge and the last minute leak, not a major one as we now know was plugged quickly.

“It is to the grit and determination of ISRO scientists that they put behind the disappointment of seeing the President too go back after the last-minute decision to abort, to come back to achieve this success.”

He expressed confidence that they will overcome the landing challenge too.

Published on July 22, 2019

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