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NASA Moon Science

NASA's LCROSS Mission Proves Lunar Ice Suspicions 177

NASA is reporting that preliminary data from the LCROSS mission indicates that there really is water in one of the permanently shadowed lunar craters, just as they suspected back in September. "'We are ecstatic,' said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. '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.'"
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NASA's LCROSS Mission Proves Lunar Ice Suspicions

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  • by GreenPhreak ( 60944 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @04:34PM (#30091444)

    The dominant paradigm since the Apollo Missions was that the Moon was as dry as a bone.

    However, a paper was put out recently (before the discovery of water a month ago) proposing a model for water and other volatiles venting out of the interior of the Moon. One of the predictions of this model is that there should be significant subsurface water primarily near the poles. The results from Chandrayaan-1 and LCROSS today confirms that this is true--there is significant subsurface water near the poles. The claims that the water is solely on the surface and due to cometary deposition or solar wind interactions are now blown "out of the water".

    This model predicts a lot more water under the surface for potential use in human exploration. w00t!

    Check out the paper here: []

  • Re:Whats the hold up (Score:3, Informative)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @04:59PM (#30091728)
    That was a pretty ignorant post on He3 mining due to the exaggerated cost estimate, lack of local manufacture, and ignorance of other materials found in lunar regolith.

    Even if it does require half a million tons of equipment, that equipment can be made on the Moon rather than launched from Earth at $40k or even $4k per ton. Also it's worth noting that current GDP contribution from natural gas and electricity in the US is somewhere around $200 billion dollars. If you can get the overall fusion power infrastructure including lunar mining to under say, a couple of trillion dollars, then you could switch over the US electricity and heating infrastructure completely to lunar-fueled fusion power. My view is that this mining infrastructure could probably be made and deployed for hundreds of billions of dollars *or less* once manufacture is established on the Moon.

    Finally other materials than merely He3 are present. You'd have platinum group metals which would in the presence of significant lunar launch infrastructure be worth exporting to Earth. Rare earths of high enough value might be present in sufficient quantity to extract. Any activity off of Earth would be closer to the Moon in terms of delta v than Earth. So it'd start making sense to launch common materials like glass, iron, oxygen, aluminum, titanium, etc from the Moon rather than from Earth. From this site [], it estimates:

    Since about 100 million tons of regolith must be heated to about 1400 deg. F to get one ton of helium 3; 4000 tons of hydrogen; 2800 tons of helium 4; 10,000 tons of nitrogen; 20,000 tons of carbon and 54,000 tons of sulfur will also be obtained.

    All of these would be byproducts of such a vast mining operation. Revenue from this operation would be more than just He3.

  • Re:Whats the hold up (Score:4, Informative)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @05:44PM (#30092234)
    It's a far better staging point for interplanetary launches than Earth is. Not as good as high orbit, but a large moon base may be arguably more practical and economical than a large orbital base.
  • Re:Whats the hold up (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 13, 2009 @05:53PM (#30092344)

    Yes, because that's *so* much cheaper than just building them in orbit. Yes, let's ferry all those materials hundreds of thousands of miles to the moon and then sink them in another gravity well... that'll be *so* much better.

    If a small nuclear reactor has a mass of 100 tonnes, a spaceship has a mass of 50 tonnes, and the fuel required to launch from the Moon to Mars weighs 500 tonnes, it's a hell of a lot cheaper to land a reactor on the Moon, launch the spaceship from Earth, land it (empty) on the Moon, and fuel it there.

    If you're doing going to Mars from earth orbit, you've gotta haul 5000 tonnes of fuel out of Earth's gravity well for every flight.

    If you're launching from Luna, you pay the 5000-tonne penalty once from Earth orbit to Luna, but the rest of the fuel's effectively free, and you're burning it in 500-tonne increments, not 5000-tonne increments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 13, 2009 @06:52PM (#30092898)

    actually.... plants can do just fine in lunar soil

  • Re:Whats the hold up (Score:3, Informative)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @08:10PM (#30093500) Journal
    Nothing except for possibly lots of Uranium/Plutonium for use in space exploration, Rare Earth minerals (which may causes wars/world war to be started in the next 5 years), the ability to launch a number of sats at high speeds cheaply, a new tourist location for Billionaire (who would then fund a lot of this), New Robotics that come back to Earth and on to mars, the ability to test equipment prior to sending to mars, the ability to put lasers, rods from gods, etc if needed, or even better yet, stop others from doing it [], etc, etc, etc.

    BUT, hey, it is silly waste of resource to the idiots that think that they will solve all of the World's need by focusing HERE. Right?
  • by rachit ( 163465 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @08:24PM (#30093648)

    Oxygen is cheap on the moon if you can get a good energy source (ie. nuclear reactor). The moon is mostly silicon / iron / calcium oxide.

  • Re:Drill baby drill! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @09:00PM (#30093906)
    "detected more than 100 kilograms in the part of the plume it observed."

    And they couldn't see the vast majority of the plume.
  • Re:Whats the hold up (Score:3, Informative)

    by hazem ( 472289 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @09:30PM (#30094124) Journal

    Your point about the composition of the moon makes sense, but your citing mines going deep doesn't.

    The deepest mine is about 4km, and compared to the Earth's diameter of 12.7k km, that's not very deep. To scrape enough mass off the surface of the Earth to make the moon, you'd probably be going deeper than most mines.

    However, I suspect that while there are rich veins of metal in the surface of the Earth, most of the metal is below the surface, in the mantle and the core. But none of our mines go anywhere near that deep.

  • by mindbrane ( 1548037 ) on Friday November 13, 2009 @09:41PM (#30094188) Journal

    Or are you a creationist troll ?

    I'm a deeply confirmed atheist, so much so that I can't imagine trolls at all, other than as pejorative labels for creationists. This linked article [] was the first handy bit I could find that speaks directly to my post. /. has run a few stories about the problems with the earth's amount of water and it's origins. If you want a more lore based recounting, Captain Jean Luc Picard narrated a pbs special, titled, IIRC, "Moon's Origins". Picard's aka Patrick Stewart's pronunciation of a French name in a truculent, anglo-saxon accent is worth the time to hunt up a copy at your local library.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner