Chandrayaan-3 Success: Tufts University’s Guide for US Science

India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has made some remarkable discoveries about the Moon’s south pole, such as its ionosphere, soil temperature and water ice potential. Tufts University president Sunil Kumar, who visited India as part of a delegation of American universities, shares his insights on what the US can learn from India’s achievements in science without waste.

The Moon is a fascinating destination for scientific exploration, as well as a potential site for human settlement in the future. India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which landed near the lunar south pole in September 2023, has provided valuable data on the Moon’s environment and resources. Some of the findings include:

  • The Moon’s ionosphere, a layer of electrically charged plasma that surrounds its surface, is relatively sparse near the south pole, with a density of about 5 million to 30 million electrons per cubic metre. This means that radio signals would not face significant delays when travelling through the ionosphere, which is important for communication and navigation systems.
  • The Moon’s soil temperature varies significantly with depth and time of day. During the day, the temperature at the surface is around 60 ºC higher than at 8 cm below the surface. The surface temperature is also much warmer than previously measured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, making it unlikely that water ice can be stable there.
  • The Moon’s south pole region has many craters that are permanently shadowed from sunlight, which could harbour water ice and other volatiles. Chandrayaan-3 detected traces of hydroxyl (OH) molecules, which are formed when water molecules are broken down by solar radiation, indicating the presence of water in some form.

These discoveries have implications for both scientific understanding and practical applications. For instance, water ice could be used as a source of drinking water, oxygen and fuel for future lunar missions. The soil temperature and conductivity could affect the design and operation of lunar habitats and infrastructure.

Tufts University president Sunil Kumar, who visited India as part of a delegation of American universities in February 2024, was impressed by India’s achievements in lunar science. He said that there is much for the US to learn from India’s approach to science without waste, which involves doing more with less resources and minimizing environmental impact.

Kumar said that Tufts University is interested in collaborating with Indian institutions and companies on areas such as synthetic agriculture, infectious diseases, materials and sustainability. He said that such partnerships would benefit both countries by fostering innovation and solving global challenges.

Chandrayaan-3 is an example of how India is advancing its scientific capabilities and contributing to global knowledge. The mission also demonstrates how science can be done efficiently and responsibly, without compromising on quality or ambition.

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