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Moon NASA Space Science Technology

NASA Finds Major Ice Source In Moon Crater 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the water-the-chances dept.
coondoggie writes with news that a NASA survey of the moon's Shackleton crater by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided data indicating as much as 22% of the crater's surface may be covered in ice. "The team of NASA and university scientists using laser light from LRO's laser altimeter examined the floor of Shackleton crater. They found the crater's floor is brighter than those of other nearby craters, which is consistent with the presence of small amounts of ice. ... The spacecraft mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, using a laser to illuminate the crater's interior and measure its albedo or natural reflectance. The laser light measures to a depth comparable to its wavelength, or about a micron. That represents a millionth of a meter, or less than one ten-thousandth of an inch. The team also used the instrument to map the relief of the crater's terrain based on the time it took for laser light to bounce back from the moon's surface. The longer it took, the lower the terrain's elevation. ... The crater, named after the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, is two miles deep and more than 12 miles wide. Like several craters at the moon's south pole, the small tilt of the lunar spin axis means Shackleton crater's interior is permanently dark and therefore extremely cold."
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NASA Finds Major Ice Source In Moon Crater

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  • MIGHT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dthief (1700318) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:28PM (#40389409)
    MIGHT have ice....anywhere from 0-22%....inconclusive results which suggest further study is needed to figure out where in this range it really is.
    • by cygnwolf (601176)
      IIRC, didn't LCROSS show something between 2.5 and 8.5? Far cry from 22%, but then again, it was a different crater...
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      MIGHT have ice....anywhere from 0-22%....inconclusive results which suggest further study is needed to figure out where in this range it really is.

      Sure plays havoc with my feedble understanding of chemistry, physics and time. That ice has to have been there for hundreds of millions of years. Yet it didn't sublimate in that time.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        At 10 or so Kelvin, perhaps less, sublimation is going to be extremely slow.

        • by mbone (558574)

          The rim of the crater is illuminated by the Sun, which for good part of the month lights up the crater interior brighter than full Moon on Earth, and prevents it from getting colder than about 70 K.

          • by jo_ham (604554)

            Even 70 K is extremely chilly as far as water goes, meaning sublimation will be very slow.

    • What has kept the ice from evaporating over billions of years? In a vacuum and in the solar heating of the Lunar day.

      I can't imagine that there can be much anywhere near the surface.

      • It's in the summary! Was it a failure of reading comprehension or attention span?

        Like several craters at the moon's south pole, the small tilt of the lunar spin axis means Shackleton crater's interior is permanently dark and therefore extremely cold.

        • You simpleminded little boy, ice evaporates in a vacuum, at anything above (near) absolute zero and even in persistent shadow, the moon still does not get as cold as a Jovian satellite!

          My mistake I was expecting an answer from a sentient being, not an ambulatory bread mold!

          • ice evaporates in a vacuum

            Wow, did someone rewrite the laws of physics as regards the chemical properties of solid water when I wasn't looking? Goddamn, that must mean that comets [wikipedia.org] don't actually exist, because they are, after all, agglomerations of dust, rock, and... wow, look at that! ice, totally exposed to the vacuum of space, and couldn't possibly survive long enough for our obviously ignorant, non-creationist "scientists" to observe them and catalog four thousand one hundred and eighty-five of them.

            And I guess Jupiter's moon E [wikipedia.org]

          • BZZZT! Arrogant asshole [slashdot.org] is WRONG.

            ice evaporates in a vacuum

            Ice doesn't evaporate in a vacuum, it sublimates at pressures below 611 Pa.

            the area is permanently dark and therefore extremely cold?

            even in persistent shadow,

            Oh now you acknowledge the persistent shadow. Whatever happened to

            the solar heating of the Lunar day

            ?

            the moon still does not get as cold as a Jovian satellite!

            Really now? The Moon's coldest is around 70 K. I think it's a safe assumption that a permanently shadowed portion would be around that temperature, since there's no atmosphere to distribute heat. Of the Jovian satellites, only Europa's coldest is colder than that, at 50 K, and its mean temperature is 102 K. Ganymede's coldest is just

            • I stand corrected, I, unlike you graduated from school (grad school) during the Johnson administration, I was remembering something entirely different!

              It would seem that even dumbass, snotty little schoolboys can be right once in a while!

              • It would seem that even dumbass, snotty little schoolboys can be right once in a while!

                Nah, idiots like you are always wrong. You can't even spell Paracelsus' [wikipedia.org] name right.

                • The reason for the spelling was that my old Nom de plume (I would tell you what that means but I'm far to dumb, was already taken, (by me) because I'd lost the password, (slashdot had no password retrieval mechanism at that time) and it was easier to change the spelling and re register.

                  And by the way, why don't you get a clue you little snot and stop bugging grownups on this board, you must not have enough to do, unemployed, etc, I've been retired for the past five years, when I had a job I had better thing

                  • The reason for the spelling was that my old Nom de plume (I would tell you what that means but I'm far to dumb, was already taken, (by me) because I'd lost the password, (slashdot had no password retrieval mechanism at that time) and it was easier to change the spelling and re register.

                    Aww, I feel for you, I really do. It just doesn't change the fact that you're an idiot. A superannuated idiot, for sure, but then idiocy like yours knows no boundaries of sex, age, or race.

    • Might have HAD ice... before they evaporated it all using that laser.

  • try this: (Score:4, Funny)

    by woodworx (1780214) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:31PM (#40389473)
    we should shoot a water cannon at that crater and store some frozen water for later use!
  • Dark Side (Score:4, Funny)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:34PM (#40389533)

    "Shackleton crater's interior is permanently dark"

    So that's the dark side of the moon that Pink Floyd was talking about

  • by Anonymous Coward

    n/t

  • umm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Terracotta122 (2653543) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:38PM (#40389597)
    Isn't there ice everywhere in the solar system? What next? Big Buck Bunny lives on mars?
  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:40PM (#40389637)

    The Major had been missing for a week.

  • Because if there's a precious natural resource waiting to be depleted that is just irresistible.

  • Just get it from there to here and we're golden.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ONCE, AND FOR ALL!

  • Ok (Score:5, Funny)

    by busyqth (2566075) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:46PM (#40389747)
    So we know where the bar goes.
    What's the next most important item? Life support?
  • by shoppa (464619) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:51PM (#40389817)
    Finally, we no longer have to send men on a hazardous trip to the arctic every time we need more ice.
  • Fascinating! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:54PM (#40389885)

    I remember reading up on Shackleton Crater a while back, when I was trying to write a sci-fi story (it never really got anywhere - sorry!). I needed a name for the main character, most surnames are based on either location or occupation. At the time of the story, humanity is just beginning to spread beyond the solar system, so the Moon's been inhabited for quite some time. Thus: Captain Ran fr'Shackleton (I'm also a bit of a Tolkien fan, so I tried to think about how the language will change over the next few centuries - we seem to like shortening things, so I cut a syllable out of the common cognomen "Ryan" and abbreviated "from").

    Anyways...

    We've long suspected that there was ice there, and several other factors made this a quite good location for a moonbase (good terrain, relatively well-explored, and a crater in general is a good idea because it will help protect against radiation). If it really does have that much ice, it might actually go from "theoretically possible" to "economically feasible" to build a moonbase.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:21PM (#40390235)

      I always thought our Moon was a good place for a moonbase. Not to sure why we'd put a moonbase on anything besides a moon really.

  • A new mission has been funded by private parties (most notably sports team owners) to send Robert 'Bobby' Boucher Jr. to the moon to recover said water sources. Think tanks involved with the mission have stated that moon ice water is of the "highest quality H2O" and must be collected for commercial purposes.

  • by slapout (93640) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:09PM (#40390077)

    Great, they found were the astronauts peed.

  • How do they get micron accuracy from a moving platform 50km above the service ? Do they use multiple beams and compare measurements between the bottom of the crater and some point determined to be at surface level? What's the "reference" altitude they are comparing the depth to? If the laser beam has (for example) a 5 cm radius at the surface, and it's shining on a slope (or there's a grain of sand in the middle of the beam), how is that measurement recorded?

    • Re:Micron? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mbone (558574) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @05:08PM (#40390911)

      You are mixing up albedo / reflectivity with ranging. Skin depth / surface detail info is not the same as geodetic accuracy (which is at the 10 cm level at best without a corner cube retroreflector).

      Here is an example - suppose I shine a flashlight on my car at night. Can I tell if it is wet ? Yes, because I can see specular reflection from a thin layer of water if it is. That layer may be 100 microns thick; seeing it doesn't mean that I know where I am, or where my car is, or the relative distance between us, to anything like 100 microns.

      The LRO has a multi-beam altimeter, with fiber optics to send out 5 shots simultaneously from each laser pulse - see Dave Smith's LEAG presentation [nasa.gov], page 6. Each spot is 5 meters across (actually, less now as the orbit has been lowered); with 5 spots they can get the local slope and estimate the terrain roughness per shot. They estimate that they can get 10 cm height accuracy with these multiple beams, when the local slope is less than 3 degrees.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        You are mixing up albedo / reflectivity with ranging. Skin depth / surface detail info is not the same as geodetic accuracy (which is at the 10 cm level at best without a corner cube retroreflector).

        Thanks for the info, I guess I was confused by this from the Summary:

        The spacecraft mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, using a laser to illuminate the crater's interior and measure its albedo or natural reflectance. The laser light measures to a depth comparable to its wavelength, or about a micron. That represents a millionth of a meter, or less than one ten-thousandth of an inch. The team also used the instrument to map the relief of the crater's terrain based on the time it took for laser light to bounce back from the moon's surface.

        Which I took to mean that it was measuring depth to the nearest micron and seemed remarkably precise from an orbital platform. I'm familiar with albedo, but I still don't see the relation between measurement to the nearest micron and measuring albedo.

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:17PM (#40390181)

    I just wish the editors would do their job and change headlines to what the article actually says;

    ASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has returned data that indicate ice may make up as much as 22 percent of the surface material in a crater located on the moon's south pole.

    They found the crater's floor is brighter than those of other nearby craters, which is consistent with the presence of small amounts of ice.

    In addition to the possible evidence of ice,...

    Nowhere did they state they found ice or in what quantity. As for quantity, it could be a small quantity spread over a wide area.

  • Shackleton is a sink for ice (i.e., it traps it there), not a source.

  • Astronauts won't have to bring their own snowcones.
  • by mfwitten (1906728) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:48PM (#40390611)

    That represents a millionth of a meter, or less than one ten-thousandth of an inch.

    For those of you who are having trouble visualizing this: That's about a little more than 9 billionths of a football field (on the short number scale [wikipedia.org], of course).

  • It's not ice. It's white cheese...

  • That's probably where the Moon Nazis have their base.
  • Great, now we can pass that information on to the Chinese, Russians, Indians and who ever else has plans for the moon. NASA just can't stop bleeding money. They have outsourced their space program to the Russians and hope that SpaceX will put NASA stickers on the Falcon rockets. Please NASA, no more alien life headline grabbing press releases and come up with a concrete mission.
  • How on earth?? Oh.. It's not on the earth, we have ice out in space, on an otherwise solid rock. I'm not understanding first how and when this water actually made it to this location. I see a serious problem here. Ice in space, even at very low temperatures, tends to turn to vapor and disappear. It may happen at very low rates when you are in the shade on the moon, but it will turn to vapor. If you stipulate that the moon is a few billion years old and the surface is largely unchanged for the last few

    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      How on earth?? Oh.. It's not on the earth, we have ice out in space, on an otherwise solid rock. I'm not understanding first how and when this water actually made it to this location.

      How about it being carried there by the same comet fragment that made the crater in the first place?

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        How on earth?? Oh.. It's not on the earth, we have ice out in space, on an otherwise solid rock. I'm not understanding first how and when this water actually made it to this location.

        How about it being carried there by the same comet fragment that made the crater in the first place?

        Ok.. That's *how* but not *when*. See the problem here is time. If it's been a few million years since the water arrived, there is no way there is any left because ice vaporizes in space.. If there is surface water on the moon, you have to either make the moon pretty young (like a few thousand years) or you have to come up with a way for the water to show up within that time.

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