India’s lunar mission finds evidence of water on the Moon
Dreams of establishing a manned Moon base could become reality within two decades after India’s first lunar mission found evidence of large quantities of water on its surface.
Data from Chandrayaan-1 also suggests that water is still being formed on the Moon. Scientists said the breakthrough — to be announced by Nasa at a press conference — would change the face of lunar exploration.
The discovery is a significant boost for India in its space race against China. Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, the mission’s project director at the Indian Space Research Organisation in Bangalore, said: “It’s very satisfying.”
"The observations presented here show a combination of hydroxyl, OH (oxygen hydrogen molecules), and H2O (water) that resides in the upper few millimeters of the lunar surface," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. "The average amount of water reported, if we were to extract it, is about a quart of water per ton (of surface soil)."
To put it another way, he said, about 16 ounces of water might be present for every 1,000 pounds of surface soil near the moon's poles. For soil near the equator, only about two tablespoons of water is believed to be present in every 1,000 pounds.
Early results from Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recorded temperatures as low as -238C (minus 396.4F) in polar craters on the Moon, according to the journal Nature. That makes them the coldest recorded spots in the solar system, even colder than the surface of Pluto, and could mean that ice has been trapped for billions of years, the journal said. The LRO has also detected an abundance of hydrogen, thought to be a key indicator of ice, at the poles.