Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Moon NASA

NASA Estimates 600 Million Metric Tons of Water Ice At Moon's North Pole 271

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-sign-of-moon-santa dept.
After analyzing data from a radar device aboard last year's Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon, NASA scientists have found what they estimate to be 600 million metric tons of water ice in craters around the Moon's north pole. "Numerous craters near the poles of the Moon have interiors that are in permanent sun shadow. These areas are very cold and water ice is stable there essentially indefinitely. Fresh craters show high degrees of surface roughness (high circular polarization ratio) both inside and outside the crater rim, caused by sharp rocks and block fields that are distributed over the entire crater area. However, Mini-SAR has found craters near the north pole that have high CPR inside, but not outside their rims. This relation suggests that the high CPR is not caused by roughness, but by some material that is restricted within the interiors of these craters. We interpret this relation as consistent with water ice present in these craters. The ice must be relatively pure and at least a couple of meters thick to give this signature."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Estimates 600 Million Metric Tons of Water Ice At Moon's North Pole

Comments Filter:
  • Send up some miners (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:23AM (#31330198) Homepage Journal

    Having been a Heinlein fan for the last 30 or so years, I have to say this makes me happy inside.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Moblaster (521614)

      It shouldn't. Monoliths give the same readings.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      If they're going all the way to the moon and back just for water, you had better specify "some really STUPID miners."
      • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:50AM (#31330554)

        If they're going all the way to the moon and back just for water

        Water is one of the key things you'd need to run a settlement for other purposes -- a great deal of it is required to maintain an ecosystem (remember, you want plants for both food and air), it's extremely expensive to lift out of the gravity well, and it can be trivially broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, both of which are useful on their own. No, ice is worth far more up there than down here; why would you ship it down (at least, without first producing a useful product out of it, thus increasing its value)?

        Slandering Heinlein... *shakes head*.

        • by sean.peters (568334) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @01:38PM (#31332132) Homepage

          Water is one of the key things you'd need to run a settlement for other purposes

          What other purposes? I've never seen any convincing rationale for wanting to settle the moon. But let's dispose of some rejoinders right up front, shall we?

          • But the moon has lots of He3! Answer: call me when we've figured out a use for He3. Fusion power: 20 years away, always will be.
          • But we could manufacture stuff on the moon and sell it! Answer: a non-starter. Consider that building factories is really expensive. Now consider that you'd have to build this factory, then lift it 250k miles - straight up. And you'd have to bring a bunch of people. And all their life support gear. And housing. And food (or hydroponic facilities or whatever). And at least some minimal personal possessions. Add up the weight of all that. Now remember that it costs like $10k/kg just to get to freaking low earth orbit. There is absolutely no way you could ever recover the costs even to get everything there that you'd need, not to mention your operating costs. If there was some magical, hugely lucrative product that had to be made on the moon, that would be one thing... but there isn't. The moon is a big chunk of the same rocks the earth is made of.
          • Space hotels! Answer: also a non-starter, for much the same reason. Hotels are expensive to build on earth, and to put one on the moon you'd need to get it there, at exorbitant rates. Plus all your staff. Given the costs of getting people into space, you're talking about a market of, what, a few people per year? You couldn't support a hotel ON EARTH with that kind of occupancy rate.
          • We need to establish a second home in case earth gets wiped out! Answer: probably a good idea, but good luck getting today's taxpayers to fund an absolutely ludicrously expensive project (both in capital expenditures and operating costs) that has absolutely no chance whatsoever of benefiting them personally. While I think space colonization would be really a cool thing to do, I wouldn't actually vote for doing it - it's simply too expensive for what we'd get out of it in any reasonable period.
          • We need practice for colonizing Mars! Answer: 1) Ok, so why do we need to colonize Mars? All the same objections apply. 2) Even if we did, why not just go straight to Mars and learn there? It would be cheaper in the long run. But seriously, you're never going to get past part 1).

          Look, I read all the Heinlein books too. They were great. And colonizing space would be really cool. But there has to be some kind of economically feasible way to do it, and there just isn't.

        • by mansa (94579) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @01:42PM (#31332200)

          Bottled moon water. :)

      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:22PM (#31330994) Homepage
        Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins went to the moon for no better reason - and there is no better reason - than because it was hard [youtube.com].
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Well yeah. If the moon was soft -- like if it was made of cheese for example -- then that would have made landing and subsequent takeoff more difficult.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        I dunno, people import bottled water from some pretty darned remote places.

        I, for one, would take a sip. 8-D

        But then again, I also drink from most public water fountains.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Screw the miners, send up some Whalers!

  • Earth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a lot until you realize there the amount on earth is measured as a few 10^18 metric tons. More than a couple orders of magnitude difference.

    • Re:Earth (Score:5, Insightful)

      by History's Coming To (1059484) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:04PM (#31330746) Journal
      Presuming that somebody is going to the Moon anyway, the cost of getting a kilo of water there is of the order of tens of thousands of dollars. Digging a kilo up in-situ, if it's handy, costs very little indeed. That's the point. It's like finding a bunch of ready cut diamond rings lying around, as opposed to having to build a strip mine, excavate them and cut them, mine the gold for the ring, smelt it, make a ring, and mount the diamond.
  • Units! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:25AM (#31330214)
    How many Olympic swimming pools is that?
    • It's ice, you clod! (Score:5, Informative)

      by 93,000 (150453) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:34AM (#31330318)

      Solids need to be measured in Volkswagen beetles.

      • Well, a 1967 VW Beetle weighs 840kg [wikipedia.org], or 0.84 tons. 6*10^8*0.84 = 714,285,714.3 VW Beetles.
      • by Kartoffel (30238)
        Yes, but for larger volumes, the cubic school bus is a good alternative unit.
        • by skine (1524819)

          But I'm American.

          Is there any way you can compare it to football?

          • by Kartoffel (30238)
            It's equivalent to 31,700,646,200 ten-gallon Gatorade coolers. If you stacked them on top of one another, it would be enough to go to the moon and back 12 and a half times.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1000L = 1 Metric Ton(http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_liters_of_water_is_in_one_ton_of_water)
      2,500,000L = 1 Olympic Swiming Pool(http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_water_does_an_Olympic_sized_swimming_pool_hold)

      My math might be off, but that puts 600,000,000 Metric Tons of water at 240,000 Olympic swimming pools worth =D

      • by AGMW (594303)

        ... but that puts 600,000,000 Metric Tons of water at 240,000 Olympic swimming pools worth =D

        OK, so that's by far and away NOT an inexhaustible supply then!
        Using it for basic 'living' needs ought to be all fine and dandy (ie O2, drinkies, plants, washing, sports) assuming we can sensibly recycle the stuff, and AFAIK we're already OK at that (see ISS). Indeed, that much water should support a pretty sizeable colony.
        Using it as 'propellant' might not be so sensible though, as it will dwindle PDQ!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      1 metron ton = 1000 kilograms

      Liters which translates, for water, to roughly the same to kg.

      According to Wiki, an olympic pool as a minimum volume of 2,500 m3 (88,000 cu ft) or 2,500,000 L (550,000 imp gal; 660,000 US gal) which would be filled with 2500 tons of water.

      hence, you could fill up 2400 olympic pools (6 000 000 / 2500 ).

      If you take into account the atmospheric pressure, weight of ice and perfect ratio between the water - kilos conversion that number might variate a bit.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        How did you and AC get your answers so different? I'm guessing AC had his last equation screwed up...

        Still, this would be enough water for a pretty sizable settlement on the moon, so I think we should be all set for settling the moon.

      • by 2names (531755)
        I prefer imperial units. I know metric units are more simple and logical, but...

        "A pint's a pound the world around."

        You can't make neat rhymes with metrics.

        "A litre's a kilogram the world o' sham a lam."

        It just doesn't work.
        • by xaxa (988988)

          I prefer imperial units. I know metric units are more simple and logical, but...

          "A pint's a pound the world around."

          - That isn't an Imperial unit. That's a US customary unit.
          - An Imperial pint (the one used when you buy beer in a pub in Britain, 568mL) of water weights a pound and a quarter. My grandma would tell you, "a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter."

          I'm sure you could make something up:
          A litre of water weighs a kilo, or ought'a.

          Are there any other rhymes? I don't know of any.

          • by 2names (531755)
            Wow, you and the one after you sure do know how to suck all the funny out of things. Thank you for correcting my mistakes.
    • by baKanale (830108)
      In liquid form that's approximately 200,000 olympic swimming pools, or, equivalently, 1 Sydharb.
    • by DarthVain (724186)

      That's a lot of Harvey Wallbangers!

      Just trying to put it in units that would have been appropriate for the last time anyone was on the moon. I am somewhat surprised there wasn't a smoking apparatus of some kind for the inside of spacesuits!

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Let's use units we all understand, please. 600 million metrics tons is about 829 milliOprahs, or a 4.2 on the Candy scale.
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:32AM (#31330286)

    1,267,327,975,003 pints of beer.

  • Habitable Moon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TechForensics (944258) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:35AM (#31330344) Homepage Journal

    This is great. Now all we need is oxygen and we can live there. Hmmm..... O2 from electrolysis of water, powered by solar?

    Sounds like it might now be vastly easier to establish a self-sustaining moon colony.

    • I doubt that there will ever be a completely self-sustaining lunar colony. The moon severely lacks in carbon and nitrogen. You need both to replenish lost atmosphere. For complete self-sustenance you also need a source of carbon to form a chemical supply chain. This is also not possible. So you would have to at least import those two elements in sizeable quantities.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Tell me again why I'd want to colonize the bottom of a gravity well when sunshine is ubiquitous, water comets are floating about nearby and metallic asteroids are just waiting to be spun, melted with mirrors and mined for metals?

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          Sunshine, x rays, cosmic rays. I guess the answer depends on if you want to have kids or not [youtube.com].
        • Tell me again why I'd want to colonize the bottom of a gravity well when sunshine is ubiquitous, water comets are floating about nearby and metallic asteroids are just waiting to be spun, melted with mirrors and mined for metals?

          Don't ask me - I didn't come up with the idea, just pointing out the main problem with self-sustainability on the moon. I agree that there is not much reason to go there, except for the heck of it. As you said, the useful resources are somewhere else. I am not sure about the element composition of the asteroid belt, though - as I pointed out above, you absolutely need a decent supply of N and C for the atmosphere, for chemistry, to sustain your plants. Probably a non-trivial amount of S and P, too. Water an

        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          sunshine is ubiquitous

          The moon has days and nights just like the earth. "The dark side of the moon" is just an album.

    • Re:Habitable Moon (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:48AM (#31330532) Journal
      A few months ago, the Japanese probe Kaguya/SELENE gave us a map of the numerous uranium deposits on the moon. This is it. Let's go, WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR ?

      The project Orion [wikipedia.org] got shelved because detonating nukes to propel a spacecraft had too much environmental and political problems, but from the Moon none of these problems are relevant. For a reminder, this projects proposes a spacecraft that could weight 100 000 tons, go at 3% of c through a constant 1g acceleration during 10 days. Let's build a godamn shipyard on the moon !
    • O2 from electrolysis of water, powered by solar?

      something like that. [nasa.gov]

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Sounds like it might now be vastly easier to establish a self-sustaining moon colony."

      Nonetheless, the Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

  • It's a start (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimbobborg (128330) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:39AM (#31330398)

    Now how much water is in the South Pole?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *

      Way more than on the moon--and it's got free oxygen, survivable atmospheric pressure, and survivable levels of solar radiation to boot. It's also a helluva lot easier to get to the than the moon.

      Sure, the moon will prove less attractive than Antarctica to any rational human settlers, but who DOESN'T want to settle in Antarctica right? Anyone?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        Ah, the old "Let's finish colonising the earth before we try anywhere harder" argument? Logic... logic is the beginning of wisdom.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          No, just pointing out the lack of a rush to colonize Antarctica as well as the lack of any rational reason for doing so. (Other than national virtual penis enlargement.)

  • So that Ice Planet movie isn't looking so silly after all, is it?
  • It'll be stable as water ice until we start to colonize, and then "lunar warming" will set in, which will thaw it out and turn the moon into a gigantic swimming pool! Or, at least that's what Al Gore tells me,. . .
  • I guess it would have been after 1972, because I'd like to think that NASA would have sent some Apollo astronauts to collect some ice samples while they still had the chance. Or was it always known, theoretically, and for whatever reason they decided it could wait, as everyone assumed that if Apollo 21 didn't get around to it, Apollo 86 would.

    Sigh. I really miss those days.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      None of the Apollo landing sites were anywhere near the poles. It's more complex (or more fuel dependent) to go into a polar orbit from my understanding, making it tough to put a human-occupied lander there (compared to putting it down near the equator).

      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        Not to mention that these craters receive no sunlight, making the environment much colder and therefor harsher to both humans and equipment.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:18PM (#31330940)

      I guess it would have been after 1972, because I'd like to think that NASA would have sent some Apollo astronauts to collect some ice samples while they still had the chance. Or was it always known, theoretically, and for whatever reason they decided it could wait, as everyone assumed that if Apollo 21 didn't get around to it, Apollo 86 would.

      Sigh. I really miss those days.

      At least RTFS!

      "After analyzing data from a radar device aboard last year's Indian Chandrayaan-1"

      Chandrayaan-1 only went up a year and a half ago, so yes, this was figured out after 1972.

  • by CFBMoo1 (157453)
    I just got done watching the Daily Show about this.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-1-2010/neil-degrasse-tyson
  • Can someone please express "600 million metric tons of water ice" in terms of "an iceberg the size of [insert nation or state or island here]" ...?
  • How long until some corporation decides they'll mine all that ice, space-ship it down to Earth, and sell it to yuppies the world over. Moon water! Cures cancer, gets you laid! Get yer Moon water naow !!

  • These areas are very cold and water ice is stable there essentially indefinitely.

    Just give us a few years. I can see the ads:

    "Experience our jetted tubs in just 1/6th Earth's gravity -- like lying on a table of water."

    "Engineers needed to build ice-melting machines to cool Lunar Fission Reactor."

    "Don't forget to flush!"

  • We're not going there anytime soon... at least from the US.

  • If you thought bottled water from Fiji was wasteful...

  • Who gives a crap (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by m0s3m8n (1335861)
    Like we will ever be going there in our lifetimes. NASA has effectively had it's balls cut off. When the people vote themselves Bread and Circuses (i.e. "spread the wealth around"), all useful discretionary spending will get diverted to social programs to keep them happy.
  • So I'd love to know how much water, say, New York City uses in a given time period. Anyone know? Like many of us, I don't know what "600 million metric tons of water" means in practice. Comparing it to some more meaningful figure, like a major city's water usage over one year, would help a lot.

    • It's easy to look up per-capita water usage, and the amount required just to stay alive, etc., but this doesn't give a full picture of the amount of water a person "uses" because you have to take into account his share of industrial and agricultural usage.

      When planning a moon base, you'd have to be able to figure these things out way in advance. You'd need some for personal consumption (drinking, cooking, washing), for cooling, for running hydroponic farms and O2 cracking plants, and etc.

      You could then figu

  • Following the long tradition of bottling and distributing a substance already readily available to the general public, the bottled water industry has extended their supply chains to include the highly demanded Lunar water.

"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." -- Peter De Vries

Working...