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

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

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  • Earth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:24AM (#31330204)

    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.

  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <> 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 PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:52AM (#31330600) Homepage Journal

    It's a big rock floating through vacuum. What is there to preserve? There's no ecosystem, no history, no emotional attachment. The only reason I can think of not to use it is that once it's used up, then it's gone, and if you think of an even better way to use it later then it's too late.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#31330728)

    The moon is, more or less, as inhospitable as Mars. The point of settling on the moon would be to learn how to settle other planets, except that the stakes and upfront cost are far smaller.

  • 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.
  • Re:It's a start (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:04PM (#31330754)

    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?

  • 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 [].
  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:35PM (#31331154)
    That's the beauty of the metric system: 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram (and can be contained in a cube that measures 10 cm on each side). 1 metric ton = 1000 kilograms. Therefore 600 million metric tons = 600 billion kilograms = 600 billion liters (approx 158 billion US gallons).
  • 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 Starlet Monroe ( 512664 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:02PM (#31332606) Journal

    It's a big rock floating through vacuum. What is there to preserve? There's no ecosystem, no history, no emotional attachment.

    There's no ecosystem at the time scale which we're accustomed to using to look at things. That doesn't mean there's no ecosystem.

    Just sayin'.

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

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @03:48PM (#31334340) Homepage

    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.)

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.