New Delhi, Aug. 24: Future space missions to explore the solar system could look at India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter mission launched in 2008 as a "good model" for international collaboration, a US space scientist said today.
Henry Throop, a senior scientist from the Planetary Science Institute, a US-based non-profit research organisation that has participated in several American space missions, said collaboration can facilitate ambitious and expensive space missions.
"International collaboration allows us to get scientific results that would be impossible otherwise, due to geography, scale, or expertise," said Throop, who has been involved in the New Horizons mission, the US spacecraft that flew past Pluto in July 2015.
In a talk here on India-US collaboration in space science and technology, Throop cited examples of how the two countries have collaborated over the decades.
India's space programme began with the launch of the US-made Nike Apache rocket from Thumba, Kerala, in 1963. In 1975, the two countries' space agencies worked to establish the first experimental satellite television service over India. In the 1980s, India ushered in satellite-based communications and weather observations through US-made satellites.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the late-1990s and early-2000s began planning exploratory space science missions and creating opportunities for more international partnerships.
India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which ISRO launched in 2008, was an Indian mission but a "truly international project", Throop said. ISRO invited scientists across the world to build scientific instruments for Chandrayaan-1, a spacecraft that eventually flew with instruments from India, Bulgaria, Sweden, the UK and the US.
The US-made instrument on Chandrayaan-1 helped provide "definitive proof" of water in the form of ice deposits near the north and south poles of the moon. "This result came about only through collaboration," Throop said. "The Chandrayaan-1 mission could serve as a model for almost any future space exploration mission," he added.
Throop also cited India's contribution to observational space science - through Indian observatories or instruments made available to international scientists and through contributions to global observational facilities.
India's Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope near Pune, the Hanle Chandra Telescope in Ladakh, and Astrosat, a space-based observatory, are among Indian facilities available to foreign scientists.
Throop also referred to India's contribution to the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT), an instrument that is expected to be constructed in Hawaii. "India is building key components of the TMT, nearly 70 per cent of India's contribution is in kind, not just financial support," he said.
India is expected to supply sophisticated mirrors that will make up the "eye" of the TMT and also provide elements of the control system and software to be used on the telescope. The TMT is expected to help astronomers study planets outside the solar system as well as yield information about the origins of the universe.