Saturday, September 26, 2009

On The Moon...

India’s moon mission has achieved a historic first by discovering water on the lunar surface. This is being hailed as a landmark breakthrough in space science. The water divining was done by a probe sent by the US National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) as part of the many payloads carried by Chandrayaan-I. The probe’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper or M3 collected data on the presence of water on the moon. The major scientists have given all the credit to the Indian Space Research Organisation for making such a discovery possible.

Scientists confirming the presence of water on the moon are doing so on the basis of scientific findings that have been arrived at after a rigorous process of deduction and analysis – and not by actually finding lakes, pools or puddles of water that we’re familiar with on earth. The probe had access to only the top few millimetres of lunar soil, on the bright side of the moon. The water so discerned might be the equivalent of one litre, say researchers, enough to fuel hopes of finding more water as ice in the darker, unexplored parts of the moon.

Unsurprisingly, popular reaction to the finding that there are signs of water on the lunar surface is that, we see the cosmos – or those parts of the cosmos that promise water – as an extension of the earth’s real estate. However, we ought to remind ourselves that there’s more to the discovery than the science of it. The mysteries of the cosmos are far more profound than to be revealed merely to fulfil human needs. To circumscribe the scope of scientific inquiry to realms that focus only on survival of the human species would amount to limiting our own horizons of knowledge.