NASA Finds Water on Moon

 
 
By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-11-13
 
 
 

NASA threw water on the theory that the moon is a dry, desolate place Nov. 13 after revealing that preliminary data from October's bombing of the moon indicates that significant amounts of water have been found at the moon's south pole. The landmark finding "opens a new chapter in [scientists'] understanding of the moon," NASA said in a news release.

NASA slammed two probes traveling more than 5,000 miles per hour into the moon's surface Oct. 9. The twin impact plumes from the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) and the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket hit the permanently shadowed region of the Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.

The first part was a high-angle plume of vapor and fine dust and the second a lower-angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material "has not seen sunlight in billions of years," NASA said.

"We are ecstatic," Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center, in Moffett Field, Calif., said in a statement. "Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high-angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water."

"Scientists have long speculated about the source of significant quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question with the discovery of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected," NASA said in the release.

"We're unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and by extension the solar system. It turns out the moon harbors many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters, in Washington.

NASA speculated that permanently shadowed regions "could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition, water and other compounds represent potential resources that could sustain future lunar exploration.

"Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been analyzing the huge amount of data the spacecraft collected. The team concentrated on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the most definitive information about the presence of water. A spectrometer helps identify the composition of materials by examining light emit or absorb."

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