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'Significant Amount' Of Lunar Water Found

A 'significant amount' of lunar water was found by NASA's LCROSS probe when it impacted a permanently-shadowed crater on the moon last month.

"Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount," Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

The water LCROSS detected "would be water you could drink, water like any other water," Colaprete said. "If you could clean it, it would be drinkable water."

The LCROSS probe impacted the lunar south pole at a crater called Cabeus on Oct. 9. The $79 million spacecraft, preceded by its Centaur rocket stage, hit the lunar surface in an effort to create a debris plume that could be analyzed by scientists for signs of water ice.

Those signs were visible in the data from spectrographic measurements (which measure light absorbed at different wavelengths, revealing different compounds) of the Centaur stage crater and the two-part debris plume the impact created. The signature of water was seen in both infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopic measurements.


( LCROSS impacts in Cabeus crater on October 9th, 2009 )

The possibility of ice in the floors of polar lunar craters was first suggested by scientists in 1961 by Caltech researchers Kenneth Watson, Bruce C. Murray, and Harrison Brown.

Science fiction fans heard about the idea of lunar ice mining from Robert Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. "I'm an ice miner," he said. "Learned by trade doing time for Warden like most of you. I've been on my own thirty years and done okay... I should say did do okay... because today you have to listen farther out or deeper down to find ice. "That's okay, still ice in The Rock and a miner expects to sound for it..."
(Read more about fictional lunar ice mining)

I should also add that sf readers were clued into the idea of using some sort of impactor to send up a cloud of particles for examination some years earlier. In his 1958 classic The Mechanical Monarch, E.C. Tubb used explosive missiles to determine the composition of asteroids:

Fire streaked in a thin line from the muzzle of a cannon-like tube mounted beneath the viewing instruments and a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour, and Wendis stared thoughtfully at the brilliant lines on the spectroscope screen.

From Space.com.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/14/2009)

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