After the nuclear deal, India appears to be heading for a space deal with the United States.

India and the United States are already collaborating in prospecting for water in the Moon as part of the Chandrayaan I Mission. It is significant that the focus of the  Mission is on the South pole of the Moon where the United States plans to set up a base by 2020.

Four instruments on the Chandrayaan satellite—two from the United States and one from Germany, are aimed at detecting water in the craters of the Lunar South Pole, among other things. The Moon impact probe, developed by the Vikram Sabarabhai Space Centre in Kerala, will also be colliding with the rim of the Shackleton crater on the South Pole.

Detection of water in the South Pole could be tremendous boost for plans to set up an outpost on the Moon as space agencies would not have to look elsewhere for drinking water and oxygen and hydrogen (which can be produced through electrolysis of water and can be used as fuel.) The South Pole is also blessed with almost round the clock perennial sunlight, which could power the camps.

As both the United States and India are prospecting the rim of Shackleton crater, it could be only for two things— collaboration or competition. The former is more likely and India could actually be catering to the United States.

The United States has in the past thwarted India’s attempt to obtain cryogenic technology from the Soviet Union and an order for launching a Taiwanese satellite. However, current political milieu points towards collaboration in space. It is also not easy for nations to compete in space exploration and prospecting for minerals because of the costs involved. So, it is likely that nations with some capability for space exploration would prefer to have an agreement for sharing of resources as in the case of Antarctica.

Related: Chandrayaan looking to help establish lunar bases