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Rajya Sabha TV In Depth – Ice on Moon

Rajya Sabha TV In Depth – Ice on Moon

India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan 1, launched by Indian Space Research Organisation in October 2008, among its many achievements, discovered the presence of water molecules in the lunar soil. The Chandrayaan 2 mission to be launched in January 2019 is going for deeper exploration in the same region – the south pole of the moon. This mission will use and test various new technologies and conduct new experiments.


Diagram of Chandrayaan 1 Spacecraft

  • Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft was launched by ISRO on 22 October 2008 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre using a PSLV rocket and operated until August 2009.
  • Satish Dhawan Space Centre is a rocket launch centre operated by ISRO located about 80 km north of Chennai and borders lake Pulicat (second largest water lagoon in India, after Chilika Lake). Till April 2008, it has done 65 launches (52 successful launches, 5 partial successes and 9 failed launches) by SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle), ASLV (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle), PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) and GSLV Mk III.
  • A launch system carries a payload from Earth’s surface through outer space. It may be a suborbital (which includes ballistic missiles and research rockets), orbital, translunar or interplanetary spaceflight. This requires various rocket fuels.
  • By Chandrayaan 1 India researched and developed its own technology for moon exploration.
  • Main objectives of the mission:
  1. i) Detect presence of water,
  2. ii) Click high resolution images of surface,
  • iii) Create a 3D atlas and
  1. iv) Perform chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface.

      95 % of its planned objectives were achieved.

  • The mission included a lunar orbiter and an impactor. An orbiter is a space probe that orbits a planet (Examples – Space Shuttle, Soyuz, Galileo, Mangalyaan, etc.). A lander is a spacecraft that descends towards and comes to rest on the surface of an astronomical body (Examples- Luna, Phoenix, etc.).
  • The spacecraft orbit around moon at a height of 100kms from the lunar surface.
  • The presence of solid ice on moon in its polar regions was confirmed by Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3). The instrument, an imaging spectrometer, was contributed by NASA.
  • Its X-ray spectrometer detected Titanium, Calcium, Magnesium, Aluminum and Iron on the lunar surface.
  • This discovery of ice makes moon a potentially habitable destination.
  • Scientists are exploring the possibility of melting this ice into water and further splitting the water molecule into Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) for rocket fuel. Oxygen can also be used for breathing by astronauts.


  • 1999: Idea first mooted at Science Academy meet.
  • 2000: Follow up proposal by Astronautical Society of India.
  • ISRO forms a National Lunar Mission Task Force.
  • 2003: Government approves proposal of Chandrayaan 1.
  • October 22, 2008: Chandrayaan 1 launched PSLV C 11.
  • May 2009: Chandrayaan 1’s orbit rose to 200 kms after the completion of all the major mission objectives.
  • January 2019: Launch schedules for Chandrayaan 2.



  • ISRO will attempt to land rover on moon’s south pole. Landing a rover on moon is a difficult task.
  • The wheeled rover will perform on-site chemical analysis on the lunar surface.
  • Complex mission will comprise Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all developed by India.
  • The spacecraft will be launched by GSLV Mk III.

An artist impression of the rover of Chandrayaan 2


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully sent a lunar orbiter and a Mars orbiter. It also launched numerous communication satellites and earth observation satellites. Satellite navigation systems like GAGAN and IRNSS have been deployed. It has future plans like development of a reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight (Gaganyaan by 2022), controlled soft lunar landing (Chandrayaan 2), interplanetary probes and a solar spacecraft mission (Aditya). The missions of ISRO have helped in various applications like telecommunication, military, etc. and its future missions are expected to further explore new areas in space technology.