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Moon Science

Unambiguous Evidence of Water On the Moon 251

Nethemas the Great writes "Information has leaked ahead of the scheduled NASA press conference tomorrow that we have found unambiguous evidence for water on the moon. From the article, 'Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called "unambiguous evidence" of water across the surface of the moon.'"
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Unambiguous Evidence of Water On the Moon

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  • Heavily rumoured (Score:3, Interesting)

    by barath_s ( 609997 ) <barath.sundarNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @03:36AM (#29526157)
    There have been persistent reports in the Indian press over the last 3 days that Nasa's Moon Minerology Mapper on board India's Chandrayaan-1 had found water, and that the Thursday press conference would reveal it. Glad to have the embargo lifted early. http://www.examiner.com/x-21670-Houston-Space-News-Examiner~y2009m9d22-Did-Chandrayaan1-confirm-ice-on-the-Moon [examiner.com] http://www.rttnews.com/Content/GeneralNews.aspx?Node=B1&Id=1074265 [rttnews.com]
  • Re:Not enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @03:58AM (#29526229) Journal

    The water these missions have found is present in very small quantities. Extracting it would require a lot of energy.

    Unlimited energy is available on the moon.
    You can run a stirling engine indefinitely based on the temperature differential between sunlight/radioisotopes and shade.
    Alternatively, you could go solar.
    Weight is your only real limit.

  • Re:BREAKING NEWS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @04:03AM (#29526239)
    I actually was under the impression that due to the low gravity and lack of atmosphere, water was thought to be unstable on places like the moon... obviously, given this report, this is not the case, but I thought that was the old line?
  • Re:Not enough (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @04:15AM (#29526301) Homepage Journal

    It's such a shame that responses like yours are likely to be the result of this announcement. "We found evidence that water is widespread on the Moon" in no way invalidates "We found evidence that there is *abundant* water in the permanently shadowed craters at the poles of the Moon".. in fact, it's exactly the opposite. That's where water will be mined on the Moon.

  • Re:Not enough (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @04:24AM (#29526339) Homepage Journal

    Maybe we should accept that the moon is not like the Earth and get on with a manned mission to an asteroid.

  • Re:Tritium Mines (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:43AM (#29528747) Homepage Journal

    There's plenty of solar power on the Moon's surface, and plenty of materials for construction in its crust. The first stage would be launching a small amount of automated fabrication machinery, run by a small crew, to build a solar power plant.

    That plant could supply the energy to power the larger construction of a nuclear plant. Again, using local materials, and a larger crew supported by the larger infrastructure built by the solar power. The nuclear power available would be much larger than even the solar power.

    Along the way, the power, infrastructure and crew would be capable of doing a lot more than building the next phase. Lunar science, other industrial engineering, telescopy, and launching other missions to farther out.

    A solar base should take America no more than 5-8 years to build, if funded intelligently (ie, at the levels at which we love to fund wars for oil, but with a larger and more guaranteed return on investment). A nuclear base should take no more than 10 years to build, with probably 2-3 of those years performed during the 5-8 years building the solar plant. So the nuke plant could be operating somewhere 12-16 years or so from commencement. Since the US is right now deciding the entire roadmap for offplanet development, the clock should start in a year or two. Twenty years until we have sufficient power to explore, industrialize and colonize the nearby solar neighborhood is quite short, especially with lots of material benefits to show sooner along the way.

    As for other countries, that's their problem. Many nuclear capable countries already launch nuke plants in satellites. That's a much more dangerous operation than building one on the Far Side of the Moon. And as usual, the US project will create the science and engineering, as well as working proof of concept, for other countries to do it themselves. We always give away some of the most valuable products of our investments in space, because it makes the world better in which Americans can live (as well as others who take advantage of it).

    The US is going to put more and more nukes in space, even if it's just the CIA and Pentagon getting the monopoly. The more we do it for more peaceful and constructive purposes, the safer we'll be in every way. We could spend the next couple decades doing it. Or arguing why we shouldn't - and watching China, India, Russia, Japan and other global competitors doing it instead - and probably not as well. We can be Spain in this new age of exploration/colonization/industrialization, or we can be Britain. I'd like my grandchildren to keep speaking English.

  • Re:Unambiguous? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:26AM (#29529273) Journal

    The scan works by looking for the OH bond, as I recall, which resonates on a particular frequency. I may be talking nonsense now, because it's a few years since I looked at this tech, but it basically works on the same principle as your microwave oven. That emits microwaves that cause the OH bonds to resonate, exciting the molecules and generating heat. This works by causing the OH bonds to resonate (in exactly the same way) and then picking up the IR that they emit as they return to their non-excited state. All that it can conclusively say is that there are molecules containing OH bonds present, but the simplest molecule containing this bond is water and so it's very probable that they've found water. Even if they haven't, they've found something that can be turned into water relatively easily, given sufficient power (e.g. a lunar solar array).

    You're pretty much right on. Every molecular bond has several resonant energies for different types of vibrational modes, and a primary way of finding what you have in a sample is irradiating it and measuring at which frequencies it's absorbing energy. The MMM is specifically designed to detect in the range where hydroxy absorption would be detected [nasa.gov], unlike previous moon mappers. (Why? I wonder. It seems like that'd be a basic thing they'd want to detect, and my memory of IR spectrometers and spectrophotometers is that it's a massive peak across a wide range of wavelengths.) Anyway, they're detecting sunlight reflected from the surface and measuring the areas in which there has been a lot of absorption to detect what's down there, if I read their description correctly.

    As a side-note, it is (on paper) possible to tell something about what's adjacent to a molecular bond, to distinguish between (in this case) water and sugar, both of which have -OH bonds, because the stuff adjacent will change the frequency at which the bond you're looking at vibrates by adding or removing a bit of electron density from it. However, in the particular case of the -OH bond, as I recall, it's such a broad peak that it's not very informative.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.