the science of water, water science

Water on the Moon

0 Comments 28 October 2010

Water on the Moon

Evidence of water ice on the moon was confirmed by scientists last week. Estimates of water present in the cold recesses of the moon’s craters increased to 40 gallons from last year’s estimates of 26 gallons.

Forty gallons of water in just one moon crater may implicate that other craters contain water as well.  What could water on the moon mean for future space exploration, and moreover, for humankind?

NASA’s Lunar Crater and Sensing Satellite (LCross) detected water particles on the moon last year. The LCross was designed to crash near the south pole of the moon, directly into a dark crater. The satellite made impact with the moon at 5,600 miles-per-hour, leaving a hole ranging from 60-100 feet wide.

A smaller satellite was quickly launched to record the LCross impact and collect data on the impact. Specialists analyzed color shifts coming from matter stirred up when LCross crashed into the moon’s crater. Water molecules absorbing light wavelengths confirmed the presence of hydrogen and oxygen on the moon. Scientists were particularly excited by the evidence of this new water finding. This confirmation could mean that astronauts might have an additional oxygen resource when on the moon.

The total amount of water on the moon’s surface is unquantifiable at the present time. But, Dr. Anthony Colaprete, principal investigator of LCross said, “This is wetter than some places on Earth.” The water is in the form of ice particles mixed in with the soil from the moon. The ice particles constitute roughly 5.6 percent of the soil mixture.  Colaprete conjectured that the percentage of ice in the soil could be as high as 8.5 percent.

If the water from the moon is safe for consumption after excavation, could this open a new door for the water shortage crisis that the Earth currently faces? Interestingly, ethical questions about ownership of the water will undoubtedly come into play at a later date. Will rights to moon water be allocated on a first land – first served basis?

The future of moon water holds innumerable questions for the world community. The Obama administration recently signed into law a halt on moon exploration for the United States, since the trips would be expensive and the U.S. has successfully completed its current moon exploration program. Questions and answers about water on the moon are suspended until further notice…

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