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Lunar Polar Craters Electrified? May 5, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : charged craters, lunar polar regions, NASA Lunar Science Institute, Polar ice, solar wind , add a comment

Recently, the NASA Lunar Science Institute made the electric announcement that lunar craters at the poles may be electrified.

“This important work by Dr. Farrell and his team is further evidence that our view on the moon has changed dramatically in recent years. It has a dynamic and fascinating environment that we are only beginning to understand.”- Gregory Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NLSI article

As the sun’s solar wind flows over natural obstructions on the moon, it may charge craters the the lunar poles—also the craters where water ice was recently discovered in abundance—to as much as hundreds of volts.

In addition to potential short-outs, any charge to the environment could also affect lunar dust cling, making the already abrasive nuisance of the lunar dust that much more of a problem. With so much valuable water ice being in these same regions, the challenges presented by this will become a top priority for any lunar prospectors to adjust for and overcome.

For the full details, check out the NLSI article and the NASA video below:

Tons Of Water Ice Found at Lunar North Pole! March 1, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chandrayaan, Chandrayaan-1, NASA, Odyssey Moon, Polar ice, water , 1 comment so far

NASA’s Mini-RF instrument on India’s Chandryaan-1 orbiter has revealed, like the LCROSS ‘moon bombing’ and NASA’s other Chandrayaan probe (the M3before it, evidence of water on the moon.

This time, it’s at least 600 million metric tons (!!) of ice deposits in craters at the lunar north pole—an enormous number! By comparison, the LCROSS impact turned up about 100kg of water (~22 gallons). Essentially this means that like Cabeus in the South, the ‘40 or more‘ permanently-shadowed craters investigated at the lunar north pole harbor that kind of ice.

“The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought.”- Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (and chief lunar scientist of Google Lunar X PRIZE team Odyssey Moon); “Tons of Water Ice Found on the Moon’s North Pole”, Space.com

This should mean that the North Pole—and any permanently-shadowed crater—should have any lunar prospectors (human, robotic, or otherwise) salivating.

Santa (as reported by Apollo 8) better like company… :)

LCROSS Impact Results–Water Was Found! November 14, 2009

Posted 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, 2009

Posted 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…

For more impact images, check out the press release and NASA’s gallery! :)

Japan's SELENE Disproves Concept of 'Peak of Eternal Light' on the Moon March 5, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Japan, Kaguya, Malapert, Peak of Eternal Light, Polar ice, Shackleton, solar power , 4comments

In what seems to be a little-noticed but highly important development for lunar base planning, Japan‘s SELENE (also known as Kaguya) lunar orbiter last month determined that the concept of a ‘Peak of Eternal Light‘ at either of the lunar poles does not exist.

The possibility of a Peak of Eternal Light at one of several locations, including the rim of Shackleton Crater or on Malapert (both at the South Pole), made those locations prime candidates for early lunar bases. Having eternal sunlight is, clearly, an advantage for any outpost relying largely on solar power :) .

Some of these points at the lunar poles do have as much as 89% illumination, though, so they remain very strong locations as far as near-constant solar power.

The pessimists of the universe, though, will rejoice in knowing that permanent shadow was confirmed to exist–leading to potential water ice.

The JAXA team’s findings were published in the U.S. journal of Geophysics last month.

Ice, Ice, Baby (News) June 21, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Current News, Phoenix lander, Polar ice , 1 comment so far

Right up there as a big ol’ classic red headline on Drudge Report today was the news that NASA has confirmed that the Phoenix lander on Mars has turned up ice.

That may become one of the more legendary space photos ever taken. It turns out that there’s apprently a whole sheet of ice right there under that dirt; e.g., as that linked article quotes Peter Smith:

“If you got a giant broom and swept if off, it’s a big ice sheet.”
Peter Smith, Phoenix Principal Investigator, of the
University of Arizona, Tucson

The existence of Lunar Ice is still doubtful, but the confirmation of ice on Mars shines a little more possibility into its existence. Even without ice on the moon, at the very least we now know we can ship water back to there from Mars, unorthodox as that may seem

A Phoenix + Ice = ? May 28, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : areology, Lunar Prospector, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Lunar Research Institute, Mars, Phoenix lander, Polar ice , add a comment

Three days ago (May 25th), NASA’s Phoenix lander made it safely to the surface of Mars; specifically, the north polar region (where water ice was discovered to be chillin’ back in 2005).

Like the features of the Moon, the north polar region of Mars has a Latin name: Planeum Borem (insert “Bore ’em” joke/pun here), which means simply ‘The Northern Plain”. Below is a mosaic of this northern region from, appropiately enough, the Viking spacecraft:

You’re probably thinking “Yeah, NASA and all, but what’s this got to do with colonization of the Moon?”

Well, as far as having water at the poles, Mars may have company. The key word, though, seems to be “may“: efforts such as NASA’s Lunar Prospector and Europe’s SMART-1 have not turned up any clear evidence. Third time may be the charm, though (or at least that’s NASA’s idea): the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter (LRO; launching November 24th, 2008) has a primary goal of finding water, along with even more critical research regarding lunar landing sites and radiation study.

As that Space.com AP article above notes, though:

“…the only way to know for sure is to send a human or robot. ‘You’ve got to go down and stick your finger in it, so to speak,’ he [Alan Binder, the director of the Lunar Research Institute] said.”

With Mars, that obviously seems to be their plan. While Mars has the possibility of past life tied to its water, the main motivation to discover water on the Moon is to plan for the possibility of future life (though water could simply be imported, especially if a space elevator is around to reduce the cost of getting it off Earth).

As the 6-month Phoenix surface mission unfolds, it should be interesting to see what lessons can be gleaned from it for similar poking around on the Moon.