Feeds

NASA: the Moon is a hydrated mistress

LCROSS spies 'buckets' of water in lunar crater

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

NASA's LCROSS probe has confirmed the presence of water on the lunar surface, including buckets of the stuff in a shadowed crater near the moon's south pole.

"Indeed, yes, we found water," said LCROSS principal investigator Anthony Colaprete said during a news conference today at NASA's Ames Research Center. "And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount."

Colaprete said there was enough water in the 20 to 30 meter crater LCROSS created by crashing into lunar surface to fill at least a dozen 2 gallon (7.6 liter) buckets.

LCROSS, or the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, and its companion rocket stage crashed into the permanently shadowed polar crater Cabeus on October 9. The impact created a plume of debris that traveled beyond the rim of the crater and into the sunlight, allowing scientists for the first time to observe its contents.

NASA scientists say preliminary data indicates the impact also tossed up a variety of other "interesting" compounds they will be analyzing going forward.

Because the permanently shadowed areas of the lunar south pole can reach temperatures of -170C (-274F), they have a tendency to trap materials for extremely long spans of time. NASA said the frigid conditions allows them to act as record keepers of the solar system for a period perhaps as long as several billion years.

From the Lunar Prospector missions about a decade ago, lunar scientists have known there was a large amount of hydrogen in the polar regions of the moon. However, it wasn't clear what form the hydrogen was in.

"LCROSS has now made that definitive discovery. It's very likely that a lot of that hydrogen is in the form of water," said Greg Delory of the University of California, Berkeley, who is not a member of the LCROSS team but took part in the announcement.

Other recent observations have also supplied evidence of water on the Moon, including the Indian satellite Chandrayaan. According to Colaprete, the two missions are complimentary and provide two different pieces of the puzzle.

"They saw water bound and absorbed in grains," he said about Chandrayaan. "We saw, potentially, real crystalline water ice."

Delory said the data will provide astronomers new insight into our closest celestial neighbor and the wider universe.

"While this discovery is significant, what's equally important is what comes next," Delory said. "Some of the really intriguing questions that come up are the following: Where did the water come from? How long has it been there? What kind of processes are involved in putting it there and removing it and destroying it?"

There are potentially many sources for the water, including comets, solar winds, the moon's internal chemistry, or the Earth itself.

Ice on the moon could also supply future explorers with breathable air, drinking water, and rocket fuel if broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. Confirmation of water is undoubtedly welcome news to NASA, who plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 for extended missions on the lunar surface. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.