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NASA finds water on the moon

In World on November 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

A “significant amount” of frozen water has been found on the moon, the US space agency said Friday heralding a giant leap forward in space exploration and boosting hopes of a permanent lunar base.

This image obtained from NASA shows the surface of the Moon as the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) approached it on October 9, 2009. (AFP Photo)

Preliminary data from a dramatic experiment on the moon “indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater,” NASA said in a statement.

“The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon,” it added, as ecstatic scientists celebrated the landmark discovery.

“Yes indeed we found water and we did not find only a little bit but a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the 79-million-dollar LCROSS mission.

The data was found after NASA sent two spacecraft crashing into the lunar surface last month to probe Earth’s nearest neighbor for water.

One rocket slammed into the Cabeus crater, near the lunar southern pole, at around 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) per hour.

The rocket was followed four minutes later by a spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the initial impact, which sent a huge plume of material billowing up from the bottom of the crater, untouched by sunlight for billions of years.

“In the 20- to 30-meter (66- to 100-foot) crater we found maybe about a dozen, at least, two-gallon buckets of water. This is an initial result,” Colaprete told reporters.

“We are ecstatic,” he added in a statement.

“Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact.

“The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water,” Colaprete said.

Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator on the LCROSS mission, expressed hope that more water could be found on the moon.

“What’s really exciting is we’ve only hit one spot,” Schultz said.

“It’s kind of like when you’re drilling for oil. Once you find it one place, there’s a greater chance you’ll find more nearby.”

Scientists had previously theorized that, except for the possibility of ice at the bottom of craters, the moon was totally dry.

Finding water on Earth’s natural satellite is a major breakthrough in space exploration.

“It’s very exciting, it is painting a new image of the moon,” said Gregory Deloy of the University of California, hailing it as “an extraordinary discovery.”

He theorized that “one of the possible source of water is a comet.”

“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and, by extension, the solar system,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

“The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The data is that rich,” Colaprete cautioned.

“Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years.”

Only 12 men, all Americans, have ever walked on the moon, and the last to set foot there were in 1972, at the end of the Apollo missions.

But NASA’s ambitious plans to put US astronauts back on the moon by 2020 to establish manned lunar bases for further exploration to Mars under the Constellation project are increasingly in doubt.

NASA’s budget is currently too small to pay for Constellation’s Orion capsule, a more advanced and spacious version of the Apollo lunar module, as well as the Ares I and Ares V launchers needed to put the craft in orbit.

A key review panel appointed by President Barack Obama said existing budgets are not large enough to fund a return mission before 2020.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Water on the Moon Buoys India’s Space Program

In World on September 28, 2009 at 9:08 am

India’s space agency has taken its share of hits over the years. When it was set up in the 1960s, the Bangalore-based organization’s very existence was questioned by critics – both inside and outside India – who said a poor country should worry about feeding hungry millions before firing rockets into space.

Last month, there were allegations of incompetence after India’s first-ever lunar probe, Chandrayaan-I, was lost when its communications system shut down. So this week’s announcement that the same probe, fitted with a NASA research instrument, had found water on the surface of the moon (and managed to send the data back to earth before losing contact) was a welcome reason to cheer at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). “Water ice on the moon has been something of a holy grail for lunar scientists for a very long time,” Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a press release. “This surprising finding has come about through the ingenuity, perseverance and international cooperation between NASA and the India Space Research Organization.”

Indian newspapers were ecstatic: “One Big Step For India, A Giant Leap for Mankind,” read the headline in the Times of India. ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair was beaming when he told reporters on Friday that “India should be proud that Chandrayaan discovered water on the moon It is acknowledged the world over that this is a real discovery and a path-breaking event for the Indian space agency.”

The discovery is remarkable for several reasons. Since the Apollo program four decades ago, scientists have believed the surface of the moon to be dry. Moisture found in rocks brought back by those early missions were thought to be the result of contamination from the earth’s atmosphere. The new research, which used the intensity of the colors that bounce off the surface of the moon when it’s hit by sunlight, proves that there are traces of both water and a closely related molecule called hydroxyl. Scientists now believe water could be produced in the lunar soil when hydrogen from solar winds combines with oxygen-rich substances on the lunar surface. Another theory centers on water-laden comets and meteorites hitting the moon.

Chandrayaan-I was launched last October; the ISRO lost contact with it in late August. At the time, critics questioned the program’s worth and the need for future missions. But ISRO scientists say they simply underestimated the radiation levels the probe and its communication system would face, problems they will now fix. The water discovery was vindication that they had got a lot right and the hiccup, said chairman Nair last week, was all part of a normal learning curve. The ISRO, Nair told reporters, is “100% satisfied with the mission’s objectives.”

Even getting this far has been an achievement itself. A lunar mission has been consistently opposed by sections of India’s political and scientific community ever since it was proposed in 1999. Critics question the logic of a country battling dire poverty spending millions of dollars on scientific pursuits that they liken to reinventing the wheel. They said the ISRO should stick to socially relevant research as it did after its establishment in 1969: launching satellites for landscape and resource mapping, weather forecasting, or communications and educational broadcasts.

But after overseeing successful nuclear tests in 1998 and riding high on nationalist euphoria over breaching international non-proliferation norms, the right-wing, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government agreed to an ambitious moon program. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who approved Chandrayaan-I at the Independence Day function on August 15, 2003, said he wanted India’s space program to become one of the best in the world. Supporters of the program argued that a lunar mission would provide untold technological spin-offs. Many of those same enthusiasts now say they have been vindicated. Operating a satellite at a distance ten times beyond anything they had done before has given the ISRO valuable experience in hi-tech spacecraft, rocketry and advanced remote navigation technology. At $79 million, the program’s budget also comes in way under those by many competitors.

The ISRO now wants to land a craft on the moon by 2013 and has reaffirmed its commitment to sending a mission to Mars by 2015. ISRO wants to garner a larger share of the increasingly competitive commercial satellite launch market. On Thursday, it launched six European and Turkish satellites from its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. “[The] returns, in terms of the science, the technology, inspiration, stature, prospects for international cooperation… are immense,” K. Kasturirangan, former ISRO chairman who conceived Chandrayaan-I, told TIME before the launch. It doesn’t hurt that the country’s celebrating too.

Source: SGGP

Full moon gala night raises money for UNICEF

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2008 at 4:03 pm

A full moon party will be held on September 13 at the Sheraton Hotel, Hanoi, by Starwood Hotel & Resorts and UNICEF, to raise funds for UNICEF’s life-saving immunization programme.

The evening includes a children’s painting exhibition, puppet show, games and a buffet dinner.

The party is part of Check out for Children, a programme that deducts 1 USD from every hotel customer to raise money for charity. Last year, 94,046 USD in proceeds were donated towards immunizing children under five.-