12 years of Chandrayaan-1: The mission renewed interest in the moon with the discovery of water

The mission is credited with finding water on the moon. This has renewed countries’ interest in the moon, with the US announcing the Artemis program

By Anonna Dutt | Hindustan Times, New Delhi

UPDATE OCT 22, 2020 11:25 am IST

India’s first mission to the Moon, which was also its first scientific space exploration mission, was launched 12 years ago. Chandrayaan-1 successfully reached lunar orbit 21 days later and has remained there ever since. Although the satellite continues to move around the moon, due to circuit failure, it stopped transmitting data in August of the following year.

The mission is credited with finding water on the moon. This has renewed countries’ interest in the moon, with the United States announcing the Artemis program, aimed at sending humans to the moon in 2024. The United States is the only country to have sent humans to the moon with six of its Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972. No human has been on the moon since.

After reaching orbit, the Chandrayaan-1 dropped an impactor probe from the satellite on November 14, 2008 to check the chemical composition of the lunar atmosphere as it passed and the debris where it struck. The impactor crashed, as expected, near the moon’s south pole at a point now called “Jawahar Sthal.”

Also Read: Indian Space Telescope Completes 5 Year Mission And Will Continue To Operate: ISRO Chief

Analysis of data from this probe showed the first sign of water near the moon’s surface. This was reconfirmed using another National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) science payload sent on the same mission called the Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

India has since sent another mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, a decade after the first. The Russian space agency was unable to deliver a lander and a rover and it was designed locally. India decided to land on the moon on its second mission – it would have been the fourth country to do so after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China.

India chose to land near the South Pole, where there was a better chance of physically detecting water using the lander and rover. However, during the 15 minutes of controlled decent, the lander-rover crashed just 2.1 km above the moon’s surface.

India is now planning to send another mission to the Moon that will include just a lander and a rover and use the existing orbiter to communicate with Earth. The mission was due to take place next year, but it will likely be delayed due to the pandemic.

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