Recent results from NASA’s 2009 LCROSS mission (the famous “moon bombing”) have shown that the targeted crater continues to be full of surprises.
The mission—in which NASA crashed a spent rocket stage into a permanently-dark crater, and analyzed the resulting plume—had produced intial results indicating quite a bit of water ice, but now further results have been published showing not only more water than some parts of Earth have, but also elements like mercury and even silver.
“Where we impacted, up to 20 percent was something other than dirt. It was ices, volatiles, light metals. That was a surprise, that you had so much of this material in there.” -Tony Colaprete, LCROSS mission principal investigator, “Moon Crater Has More Water Than Parts of Earth“, Space.com
These materials probably arrived via billions of years’ worth of meteor, comet, and other impacts.
Huge quantities of water ice have been discovered elsewhere on the Moon in the past year, showing that a moon once thought to be dry has remarkable natural resources. Water can be processed for cost-effective rocket fuel (via its hydrogen and oxygen), and now with resources like silver turning up…
If there’s anything the moon has shown us in the past year, it’s that we only have an initial understanding of its resources. The prospects for lunar mining have been increasingly steadily, and they were already pretty good to begin with (with helium-3, water ice, lunar solar power, silicon, and more).
These sort of large-scale discoveries of water ice would have been pretty unthinkable even two years ago; so what kind of other resource discoveries could be waiting around the corner? An already bright frontier continues to get more interesting by the day…
And with that, here’s a favorite song of mine which is now a lot more technically accurate than it used to be:
Orbiting Atlas #2: Cabeus December 21, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, Orbiting Atlas , add a comment
A crater enveloped in deep shadow, about 80 miles north of Shackleton and the lunar South Pole (and ~1,000 miles south of the nearest Mare), Cabeus had drawn a lot of attention because that permanent shadow meant a possibility of valuable water ice.
In October 2009, NASA proceeded to explore the possibility by crashing an LCROSS payload and its spent Centaur rocket into the darkness of Cabeus to try and stir up some of that ice. Turns out that “moon bombing” was successful—water was found in impressive quantities.
This makes the lunar south pole, already a prime target for colonial efforts, even more valuable a location. With only that short 80 miles seperating the solar-rich Shackleton rim and Cabeus’ water holdings, this region could rapidly become one of the most well-developed areas of the colonial Moon—the next New England? :)
LCROSS Impact Results–Water Was Found! November 14, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, Polar ice, private sector, water , 2comments
NASA has released the preliminary results from the LCROSS “moon bombing” impact, and the news is that water has indeed been found!
“‘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.'” -Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist
With mission accomplished, and a big new financial motivator for companies (water) having been confirmed several times over, things are really beginning to heat up for NASA and the private sector (the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, matched by NASA for a $60 million total? Drool…)
"Moon Bombing" Plume Spotted; LCROSS Team "Blown Away" by Data October 17, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, Polar ice, water , 2comments
NASA has announced that an alternate camera from the LCROSS caught an image of the plume from NASA’s recent “moon bombing”—and that good data was returned from the mission:
“We are blown away by the data returned…the team is working hard on the analysis and the data appear to be of very high quality.”- Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist, “NASA’S LCROSS Captures All Phases of Centaur Impact”
In fact, all three phases of the impact–the impact flash, the plume, and the creation of the Centaur’s crater—wer captured, though the expcted 12-mile-high plume ended up only being one mile high. Still, besides a lack of on-the-moment drama, it appears everything with the mission was a ‘smashing success’, and it should be exciting to see the data that unfolds in the next few weeks…
LCROSS Has New Crater in Crosshairs for Impact September 30, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : Cabeus, LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, water , 1 comment so far
As you can see in the Google Moon image above, Cabeus is both near the south pole and deeply shadowed—increasing the chance for hidden water ice that the LCROSS’ moon-bombing (using one of its spent rockets) hopes to stir up.
The impact is occurring at 4:30am PST Friday, Oct. 9th—with viewing events you can join, including one here in Portland, OR at OMSI. (I’d go, but I’ll actually be at work…full-time graveyard shift :) ).
Keep your crosshairs targeted here for coverage of the impact and its results :)