October 04, 2009

India finds water on the Moon

So, India found water on the Moon!!!

That was the over-simplied headline in all the newspapers and on TV channels. However, the reality is, of course, as usual a little bit more complicated than that!

The simple truth is that a NASA payload, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) found spectroscopic evidence of trace quantities of water on the Moon.

This is not really all that of a revolutionary finding. In fact, this was kind of a discovery waiting to happen or waiting for confirmation.

It is of course not as if anyone has found great flowing rivers or oceans of water on the Lunar surface - that ain't gonna happen, ever!!!

The fact is this: the Moon is not where the game is as of now in terms of space exploration! All the big boys of space (U.S., Russia) have explored Moon in the sixties.

The game, if India wants to play, is on Mars right now.

It really is a simple matter of how much resource(a.k.a. money) you are willing to put into it. Space science is pricey and nations have to decide how much taxpayer's money they can spare for the effort.

Even NASA doesn't have access to limitless resources - in fact, NASA is hamstrung because of lack of resources.

So, a developing nation such as India won't be able to devote more than token amounts of money towards these 'luxurious' endeavors.

India is awash in problems that are far more down to earth: problems of poverty, of lack of education, of mannutrition, of too many babies dying too young, too many women dying during childbirth, drinking water shortages, lack of adequate road infrastructure, lack of electricity in the villages, overpopulation, etc. etc.

It would be futile to expect Indians to suddenly expect to acquire the foresight tha space exploration is where the true future of humanity lies and to devote limitless resources to it.

Of course, I believe the next great age of human exploration will happen once humans acquire the means to look for other habitable planets around other stars in nearby regions in the Milky Way galaxy.

Then, nations will compete to send craft and humans to those planets. This might be some sort of a replay of rivalries that took place on the oceans of the world a few centuries ago when countries such as England, France, Spain, Portugal and others fought to colonize nations of the globe.

The inevitability of humanity turning into a space-faring civilization, however, lies in a still dim and distant future from the perspective of the early 21st century.

I am sure I would be long dead by when all this happens. But, that doesn't make it meaningless to talk about that future!!! In fact, it is absolutely relevant and essentiall to already look forward to such a glorious future.

What else is there to do? Worry about what to eat tomorrow or what to wear tomorrow?

The European sea-faring nations showed remarkable prescience when they chose to venture into the unknown seas and it remains to be seen which nations show similar vision when it comes to exploring the vastness of space. By all evidence, it seems that Americans and others are again to be the winners in this race as well - alas, India is nowhere in the picture!

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