Saturday, October 23, 2010

LCross results confirm Chandrayaan's Chace findings.

           My friend, Syed Maqbool Ahmed, project manager, Chandra Altitudunal Composition Explorer (Chace), one of the three payloads on board the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of Chandrayaan-1 says: ``We got a wonderful second anniversary gift of Chandrayaan-1 launch in the form of LCross (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) results. At the end of the day, it's just the reconfirmation of two papers of Chace published in the British journal, ``Planetary and Space Science.'' The journal carried the announcement about the discovery of water by Chace in its March issue and the one about carbon diaxide in September.

          Syed calls it a moment of celebration because the LCross findings which were announced by Nasa on October 21 and October 22 (IST), have only strengthened and endorsed those of our Chace relating to the discovery of water, carbon diaxide and heavier species. Secretary of India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas, says it is something to be proud of and this has now set the stage for the second Indian moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, slated for lift off in 2013.

          Chandrayaan-1 was launched on October 22,2008, and the Moon Impact Probe crash landed on the south pole region of the moon on the night of November 14,2008. While it was zooming down towards the moon, Chace on board the MIP detected water vapour and carbon diaxide--the first to do it.

           Had this mission been run by another country, it would have gone to town with this important discovery. But, of course we in India remained mute spectators, watching Nasa walk away with the credit for our finding. Nasa clearly took advantage of our silence.

          It is seems strange that while Chandrayaan-1, especially Chace, which has easily emerged as the most visible of all the spacecraft's payloads, is crossing a milestone at regular intervals, its achievements are going largely unnoticed within the country. Can you believe that in Isro's own website there is no mention of the breakthroughs attained by Chace? Why? This has triggered speculation whether there are any pressures working to ensure that the achievements of Chace are hidden from the public domain.

          How pathetic is the state of affairs can be gauged by the fact that some guys in Mumbai were blissfully ignorant of the fact that the credit for Chandrayaan's discovery of water, has gone to Nasa. I now doubt whether they are even aware that Chace discovered water and carbon diaxide. And as far as the media is concerned, it for some reason does not want to be on the wrong side of the Americans!

          At the Nasa media briefing the chief lunar scientist at the space agency's headquarters, Michael Wargo, said: ``Nasa has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterised its patchy distribution in the permanently shadowed regions of the moon.''  Chace had made this discovery much earlier.

          He added: ``We've confirmed that there was indeed water ice in the ejecta plume and at an abundance that was about 50 per cent greater than our initial estimates.''

          Nasa said: ``The twin impacts of LCross and a companion rocket stage in the moon's Cabeus crater on October 9,2008,lifted a plume of material that might not have seen the direct sunlight for billions of years.  As the plume travelled nearly 10 miles above the rim of Cabeus, instruments abroad LCross and LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) made observations of the crater and debris and vapour clouds. After the impact, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vaccum of space.''

          The suite of LCross and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 per cent of the material kicked up by LCross impact included methane, ammonia, carbon diaxide and carbon monoxide. I might be sounding repetitive but the September issue of Space and Planetary Science carried the announcment about the finding of carbon diaxide by Chace.

          Principal investigator of LCross, Anthony Colaprete, said: ``Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities.'' I recall a statement made by Chandrayaan-1 project director, Mylswmay Annadurai, at the SIES College in Mumbai on September 26,2009, saying that one of the key discoveries of the Indian moon mission was that the source of water on the moon ``could be within and not an external factor.''

         Colaprete said that Hydroxyl ion was also found by LCross which was seen in the M Cubed. M Cubed is Nasa's Moon Minerology Mapper one of the payloads on board Chandrayaan-1. Pradeep explaiined that when hydrogen and hydroxyl come together they form water molecules.

          Nasa says the discovery of water will help future mission planners to determine which locations will have easily accessible water. ``The existance of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won't have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuablr life support resources. In addition,an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel,'' it states.

          According to the The New York Times, if astronauts were to visit the crater in the south pole region of the moon which is wet, they might be able to use eight wheel barrows of soil to melt 10 to 13 gallons of water. It says if the water is purified it could be used for drinking or broken apart into hydrogen or oxygen for rocket fuel which can be used for flying back to earth or going to Mars.
       All in all bulk of this discovery by LCross and had already been made by Chace. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows about this. This certainly calls for a public debate about this entire controversy regarding the discovery of water on the moon which has earned the title of ``Moongate,'' after Watergate.

          The official stand of Isro and Nasa is that they were not in a lunar race regarding the discovery of water.

          This may be true, but does that mean that the facts should be twisted and slanted in favour of one powerful group?




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