Chandrayaan-1 has given space exploration a boost: Royal Astronomical Society


The proposed site of the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO. IANS Photo

"This is a massively impressive accomplishment," RAS Secretary Martin Barstow, a leading British astronomer said after American scientists made the stunning announcement that the Indian mooncraft had sent evidence of water on the lunar surface.

"I have nothing but praise for the Indian space programme - it is excellent.

"The discovery of water is significant not only for reasons of science, but also for the sheer practical reason of returning to moon exploration, especially by the US," said Barstow, who is pro-vice chancellor and professor of astrophysics and space science at the University of Leicester.

Barstow said if the moon had a sufficient quantity of water, then it would be possible to "unlock that water" and set up a processing plant.

"You could release the water and have a supply of water, which in turn means you could save on having to take up a kit with you and make future space explorations less expensive."

Barstow was particularly excited over the prospects of the US now reviving its lunar exploration programme, saying there is a "huge amount of science to be done" on the moon -- with implications for the Mars exploration programme as well.

Space scientists are looking at the moon as place for 'acclimatisation' -- a short-haul destination in space to help prepare for longer space flights and exploration programmes, such as the one for Mars, which is a two-year return flight.

"The moon is within easy reach. It takes only a few days to reach and a lunar programme could help us in the process of learning to live and work in very inhospitable environments," Barstow told IANS.

"The moon is a pretty hostile place, and exploring it is one way to learn how we can move about the solar system.

"There is a lot of science left to be done on the moon itself. There have only been half a dozen moon landings and very little actual exploration. We need to understand more about the formation of the moon."

Barstow, whose university works closely with Indian space scientists in Bangalore and supplies instruments to the Indian Astrosat programme, said the Chandrayaan-1 finding showed that India had begun to play a vital role in the global space exploration agenda.

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