Describing the recent discovery of thick ice deposits on the Moon as path-breaking, former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said it opens up a vast avenue for human exploration.
"This is the first time NASA and ISRO have confirmed the availability of water on moon. Huge ice sheets were found in the polar regions of the moon. This is a path-breaking finding as it was earlier believed there was a vacuum in the moon," Nair, during whose tenure unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan I was launched, said.
"The presence of water gives many ideas.Water can be split with sunlight to get oxygen and hydrogen. While oxygen can be used by human explorers, hydrogen can be used as fuel either to generate electricity or use as rocket fuel for the return journey or even attempt a Mars mission from the Moon," he said.
This also reduces the need to carry expensive oxygen and fuel payloads by future space missions, he said, addressing the Fedbank Hormis Memorial Foundation lecture on 'Technological Challenges for National Development' here last night.
The cost of access to moon works out to about 50000 USD a kg and to go round the earth it is 20,000 USD a kg. Recently, the US had to cancel lunar exploration programmes due to the high cost, he said.
Nair said scientists have to evolve new technologies to reduce access to space by making less expensive rocket systems and to use re-useable rocket systems.A host of new systems and materials need to be developed, he said, adding by 2020, the aim was to reduce the cost of launch by half by adopting newer technologies.