The rather chance discovery came from a look at pockets within crystals found on the lunar surface. Using new tech, researchers realized this ancient magma was as wet as Earth’s mantle—challenging how exactly the Moon formed, and where it gets its water.
This is similar, but not the same, as an earlier big water discovery involving crystals.
Over just the past couple of years, these water discoveries have been getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
Here’s a quick timeline:
- September 2009: A NASA instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter makes a big splash, with the first-ever detection of water molecules on the Moon’s surface
- October 2009: NASA bombs the Moon for water, shock and awe ensues as water ice confirmed to be found
- March 2010: The lunar north proven to be very, very, *very* rich in water ice
- June 2010: Initial announcement made that lunar apatite crystals were, in fact, not going thirsty and that the Moon’s interior had 100x more water than first thought
- November 2010: LCROSS’ Cabeus Crater shown to have way the heck more water ice than first considered
From mare to shining mare, the Moon has proven to have not just water, but some downright substantial sources of it…which will prove handy, for fuel, radiation shielding, and a cool drink. The Moon’s prospects as a station for mankind just keep on getting better :)
Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, silver, water , add a comment
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:
Potentially Icy Northern Crater Mapped By LRO July 7, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : lunar mining, lunar North Pole, lunar polar regions, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, lunar water, NASA, Rozhdestvenskiy, water , add a comment
A permanently-shadowed crater within the larger, northern Rozhdestvenskiy, the LRO’s advanced Mini-RF imaging technology was able to bring out the Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) of the crater and its surroundings. A stark contrast between the two suggests thick deposits of ice, as were shown generally to exist around the north pole earlier this year.
You better get used to ‘Rozhdestvenskiy’, as deposits will surely make this an icy hotspot for future lunar missions and subsequent (lucrative) mining efforts.
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Space.com has reported that a new study has shown that the Moon’s interior may have 100 times more water than previously thought.
The study of volcanic glass beads found during Apollo suggests that the minimum level of hydroxl—a minor element found throughout the moon—is much higher than estimated when it was first detected in 2008.
“It is gratifying to see this proof of the hydroxyl contents in lunar apatite. The concentrations are very low and, accordingly, they have been until recently nearly impossible to detect. We can now finally begin to consider the implications – and the origin – of water in the interior of the moon.” – Washington University lunar scientist Bradley Jolliff, “Research Suggests Water Content Of Moon Interior Underestimated”, NASA
While this isn’t quite as epic as other recent discoveries of water on the Moon, it’s yet another drop in the bucket towards illustrating that the Moon is not the bone-dry place it was once thought to be—and another hint that we’ve just barely begun to understand what secrets (and benefits) the Moon may hold :)
Check out the Space.com article for more of the geologic details on hydroxl and the source of this water!
Tons Of Water Ice Found at Lunar North Pole! March 1, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Chandrayaan, Chandrayaan-1, NASA, Odyssey Moon, Polar ice, water , 1 comment so far
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.
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…
NASA's "Moon Bombing" For Water Ice Tonight—A Quick Explanation October 8, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, Obama, private sector, water , 1 comment so far
NASA’s surprisingly controversial “moon bombing” with the LCROSS craft is set for tonight, at 4:30am!
A lot of people (and I mean a lot–Twitter has been on fire , 38 Tweets on it in past ~30 seconds) are wondering why NASA’s doing this, and some are expressing levels of outrage.
A quick explanation: Water ice is important to moon colonies (and beyond—the oxygen and hydrogen can be used to make rocket propellant, which is incredibly expensive to launch off of Earth; and thus, the Moon could be a cost-effective ‘gas station’ for Mars and beyond), and this event tonight is a key study to whether it exists in shadowed craters sensors can’t see into. (See this great article from Universe Today for more on why water on the Moon is valuable.)
The LCROSS will drop it’s spent Centaur rocket (non-explosive, basically a large piece of metal) into the Cabeus A crater, and the LCROSS itself will follow into the crater, taking readings as it goes (and eventually impacts the same location).
The $79 million spent on the mission could pay itself back for the U.S.—private space development is a rapidly growing industry, one that Obama has suggested could be valuable to an economic turnaround. Companies are already set for a variety of commercial applications (including an extremely promising alternative energy, as explained there by Apollo 17 astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt) , but the presence of valuable water ice gives them another lucrative motivation.
This will be a historic event—the mainstream-public attention alone has guaranteed that, and the successful discovery of water ice will be yet another spur to an already charging “base race” back to the Moon (for resources, this time) :)
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 :)
It's Official: NASA Reveals Water Discovered on the Moon! September 24, 2009Posted by Nick Azer in : Chandrayaan-1, NASA, water , 1 comment so far
As rumored, NASA announced today that three different spacecraft have detected water molecules on the Moon (the first-ever confirmation!).
NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument on board India’s Chandrayaan-1 made the discovery, assisted in confirmation by the Cassini and Epoxi spacecrafts. The water and hydroxyl-bearing materials were found in a relatively young polar crater that faces away from Earth. The results were analyzed by scientists working at Brown University (in Providence, Rhode Island—a state I hold dear to my heart :) ).
Check out the press release for all the initial background and details :)
Fun fact: NASA originally got a hint of this water evidence back in 1999, on Cassini’s first pass, but did not publish those results until confirmation now.