Thursday, September 24, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere - Even on the Moon

"It's Official: Water Found on the Moon" (September 23, 2009)

"Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called 'unambiguous evidence' of water across the surface of the moon.

"The new findings, detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Science, come in the wake of further evidence of lunar polar water ice by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and just weeks before the planned lunar impact of NASA's LCROSS satellite, which will hit one of the permanently shadowed craters at the moon's south pole in hope of churning up evidence of water ice deposits in the debris field.

"The moon remains drier than any desert on Earth, but the water is said to exist on the moon in very small quantities. One ton of the top layer of the lunar surface would hold about 32 ounces of water, researchers said...."

"...Combined, the findings show that not only is the moon hydrated, the process that makes it so is a dynamic one that is driven by the daily changes in solar radiation hitting any given spot on the surface...."

"...The various study researchers also suggest that the daily dehydration and rehydration of the trace water across the surface could lead to the migration of hydroxyl and hydrogen towards the poles where it can accumulate in the cold traps of the permanently shadowed regions."

At a one ton surface material / 32 ounces water ratio, I don't see 'mining' water from the moon's surface as a practical idea. However, this article discusses how water molecules probably travel - making the existence of 'cold traps' near the poles a real possibility. There might be tons of relatively concentrated water ice there. Or, not.

There's more to the article: a brief discussion of how water could form from hydrogen atoms hitting the surface, and an overview of recent robotic explorations of the moon.

Aside from the joy of discovery, I'm very interested in this development. It's looking more and more like the raw materials for a long-term settlement on the moon may be there - which would make construction a whole lot cheaper than if everything had to be shipped in.

And then there's Mars.

I don't think we'll have people living permanently on the moon - not any time soon - but a permanent base or three with a rotating staff is a very real possibility.

Besides 'pure' research, there's the matter of mining - but that's enough for one post.


Brigid said...

One word. AWESOME!

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 9/25/2009, at The Unreligious Right

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