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NASA Moon Space Science

NASA Says Moon Has More Water Than Great Lakes 255

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-and-cheese dept.
jerryjamesstone writes "The US Great Lakes have some competition: the moon. Yes, that old thing in the sky may hold more than all of the water contained in the Great Lakes, according to a NASA-funded study. From the article: 'Scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, along with other scientists across the nation, determined that the water was likely present very early in the moon's formation history as hot magma started to cool and crystallize. This finding means water is native to the moon.'"
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NASA Says Moon Has More Water Than Great Lakes

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  • Re:Cheating Moon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Atreide (16473) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:53AM (#32599550)

    and Neptune has more water than Great Lakes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2010 @04:10AM (#32599634)

    Water is precious to humans. Would it be strange to think it might be precious to other intelligent life out in space? I'm just saying "what ifs" but it sounds like it would make a neat video game or movie. Aliens invade Earth, the moon, and any nearby planet/moon that may have water and humans must fight them off because as we expand our need for it will be greater. I'd play that..

  • Re:but then... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by strack (1051390) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @04:39AM (#32599774)
    if only there was some way to "make stuff" with the "minerals" that were "mined" there. so we wouldnt have to fly lots of stuff there.
  • Re:"US" Great Lakes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @05:01AM (#32599866) Homepage

    "The largest lake entirely within Canada is the Great Bear Lake. None of the Great Lakes are entirely in Canada, so none of them count. The deepest lake in Canada is Lake Manitou, which has an island inside it, and in that island there is a lake. That makes it the largest lake that's in an island that's in a lake in the world."

    Though, I would expect people living next door to the US to be used to its "US is the world" attitude by now.

  • Re:but then... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2010 @06:08AM (#32600146)
    He doesn't expect to do it cheaply - he specifically said getting everything up there (which would presumably include people to make the whole building and returning stuff to earth problem simpler - but by no means simple) would be expensive, but that the return journey would not be as expensive (even though it would be logistically very complicated). Assuming you could drop it reliably in a part of the ocean where you could retrieve it, maybe the simple solution would be to embed whatever you're mining in chunks of moon rock and use them as your container. Either way it's a pipe dream right now but that doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the research for the future (we'll never solve the problems of going there and getting stuff back if we don't first establish the reasons for going there).
  • by martyb (196687) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @07:37AM (#32600558)

    What I want to know is: if you flooded the moon with as many great lakes as there are books in the LoC, to what depth would the flood waters rise?

    Preposterous, but now I'm curious! (Caution: I've only had one cup of coffee so far this morning, so please check my math!)

    Depth of covering the moon with the contents of the Great Lakes, just once:

    (GreatLakesVolume) / (SurfaceAreaOfMoon) =
    (2.256 x 10E4)/(3.793 x 10E7) =>
    .0005947798 km =>
    .597 m

    So, approximately 0.6 meters (just under 2 feet)!

    If we use BooksInLoC of Great Lakes, that works out to:

    (29 x 10E6)(0.6 m) =>
    17.4 x 10E6 m

    So, to answer the original question: 17,400 Km (or approx. 10,800 miles) deep!

    P.S. This was a fun exercise... I knew the Great Lakes were "big", and I knew the Moon was "big", but to think the Great Lakes alone could cover the entire Moon to a depth of about 2 feet... Just. Plain. Wow!

    Extra Credit Question: If the moon were entirely covered by the water from the Great Lakes, how much brighter would it make a Full Moon seem on earth? Bonus: how bright is that compared to the Sun at noon?

  • Re:but then... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @08:42AM (#32600964) Homepage Journal

    Space Elevator. Now.

    Yea, it will require a large initial investment, but then moving stuff in and out of Earth's gravity well becomes really cheap. So cheap, in fact, that asteroid mining operations may become feasible.

    I honestly don't know why there isn't a lot more effort in this direction already. Some lucky country on the equator could be in for some boom times!

  • by atrain728 (1835698) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:07AM (#32601202)
    The surface area of an ellipsoid (in this case, the moon) expands as it's diameter increases. Therefore, your math is off by more than a little bit.

    According to Wikipedia, the moon has a mean radius of 1,737.10km and has a volume of 2.1958E10 km^3.

    From your calculations, the great lakes have a volume of 22,560 km^3. Therefore, the volume of the great lakes times the number of books in the library of congress is 6.5424E11 km^3.

    If we add this volume to the volume of the moon, the volume of our new moon is 6.76198E11 km^3. Assuming the new moon takes on a spherical shape, we can get the new radius of the moon by using the formula for the volume of a sphere, V=4/3r^3. Therefore, we deduce that the new radius is 7,974.65km.

    Further assuming that the moon as it exists now settles in the center of this new waterworld relatively undisturbed, with it's mean radius remaining at 1,737.10km, we can calculate the mean depth of the water on the moon as 6237.55km.
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @09:34AM (#32601418)

    Football fields doesn't even bother me as much. At least it's a specifically known number (100 yards - and yes I'm going with the American/gridiron definition of football because we seem to be the only ones who measure in football fields :)) that is small enough to wrap your head around.

    Great lakes? Ok, I know they're pretty big, but I don't know if there's hundreds of thousands of gallons, millions, billions, trillions, or even more gallons of water in those things. I just have no sense of it. Same with "Libraries of Congress". I have no clue how many books they have. I know it's a lot, but I don't know how many. Biggest library I ever saw was our college library; it was 5 stories which compared to our little ~6000 sqft county library back home seemed ENORMOUS, but other students constantly expressed how small and sucky our library was so maybe even that is small potatoes in comparison.

    People seem to be attached to using stupid units though. Kinda like that relative who insists in telling you distances in units of time rather than length.

  • Re:but then... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning.netzero@net> on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:04PM (#32604694) Homepage Journal

    One of the huge advantages of processing ore on the Moon is that you don't have to worry quite so much about oxidation of the minerals during the refining process. All you really need is a big mirror that collects energy from the Sun and if you really want to be efficient, some method of collecting the oxygen from the refining process (mainly to have the oxygen for other purposes, not to use it in the refining process). One of the larges problems with refining metals on the Earth is trying to get the metal into an environment where it doesn't oxidize before you can turn it into something useful.

    In fact, I would dare say that many of the smelters would likely first be used for oxygen production well before the metal is going to be used, with the metal being treated as a "waste product" at least at the beginning of resource consumption and production on the surface of the Moon. At that point, all you really need is a good lathe and other basic machining tools, and almost anything else you would want to have built on the Moon could be made right there from materials found on the Moon.

    The critical element isn't necessarily metals (Iron works out rather well, in fact), but rather volatile elements like Hydrogen and Nitrogen. With the basic elements of life, CHON, you have the basics for establishing life on the Moon. The rest is trying to find an economic reason to justify the cost of shipping all of the infrastructure into place, and how impatient those who are putting the equipment and personnel on the Moon want to wait before they get a return on their investment.

    I envision that labor shortages are going to be the most significant problem on the Moon, which is what will ultimately be driving the automation of the equipment up there, not really that we can't get people up there to get things done. There will also be a use for skill technicians, particularly machinists and "skilled trades" of almost every kind (except perhaps carpentry).

We can predict everything, except the future.