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Lunar ice evaporates under glare of new studies

Only rovers can tell us for sure

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It now seems the moon could be dry as a bone, as two new studies have failed to find any sign of the ice that some have suspected to lie in the shadows of lunar craters.

The findings have prompted calls for on site exploration of the lunar surface in the form of rover missions to find out for sure whether or not there is ice on the moon, according to Science Magazine.

Finding lunar water supplies is a vital part of plans to establish a lunar base from which astronauts could explore our moon. The search forms part of many of NASA's exploration plans.

The discovery of water ice on the moon dates back to results from a 1996 radar survey of the lunar surface. However, the new study suggests that the interpretation of the radar signals was flawed.

Planetary scientist Donald Campbell says his new study, which uses more instruments to give a better resolution, shows that the "ice" signatures are not coming from the shadows of craters at all. Rather, they seem to be from areas of rough lunar soil.

And the prospects of finding lunar ice look even dimmer thanks to a study of the temperature of the moon's surface by David Paige of the University of California, Los Angeles. His work shows that the signs of water do not correspond with cold spots on the moon's surface.

NASA is launching a new mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, in 2008 that will be specifically looking for ice on the moon. But some scientists say nothing short of a rover mission will be able to provide the certainty needed. ®

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