Water on the Moon…? Yup. It's real.

By Phil Plait | September 24, 2009 12:42 pm

Yesterday, I put up a post about the possibility of water on the Moon. I’ve now read the scientific papers from the researchers themselves, and it looks like this is for real.

So yup. Water on the frakking Moon. Wow.

This image shows a typical region on the Moon where the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 found water and its component molecule, hydroxyl:

moonwater_chandryaan

Holy Haleakala. There’s a lot going on here, so let me break this up into bite-sized pieces for you.

First, the detection. Three different spacecraft — Cassini, Deep Impact, and Chandrayaan-1 — all see the signature of water (the first two swung by the Moon on the way to Points Elsewhere, and Chandrayaan-1 orbited the Moon). Water is composed of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. It can be formed when hydrogen combines with a hydroxyl molecule (OH-).

When a water or hydroxyl molecule absorbs energy, the component atoms oscillate, like ping pong balls glued to the ends of a Slinky. Their favorite flavor of energy is near infrared light, specifically at 2.8 microns, roughly three to four times the wavelength of light our eyes can see.

There’s lots of that kind of light from the Sun, which would normally just bounce off the Moon and be seen as reflected light by the spacecraft. But the water and hydroxyl molecules love to eat that 2.8 micron light, so they absorb it, and the spacecraft don’t see as much as expected. When you take a spectrum of the Moon, you see a big dip at that wavelength (imagine shopping for cereal at the grocery store, and there’s a gap on the shelf where Cap’n Crunch should be; you would surmise that’s a popular cereal and is being absorbed by consumers. It’s pretty much the same thing).

That’s exactly what happened. The spectra published by the scientists clearly shows a nifty little dip in the Moon’s spectrum at 2.8 microns. Nothing else we know of makes such a dip, and the constituent components of water are easy to find. If it smells like water and quacks like water, it’s water.

Second, the amount. All the spacecraft showed that there is something around 0.1 – 1% water in the lunar surface by weight. That’s a nice amount. It’s not huge, so we’re not talking ice skating in Clavius or anything like that, but it’s enough to make mining it (if you can call it that) possible, if not easy. I still think water trapped as ice in deep polar craters is a better bet, but we’ll see. That’s spitballing on my part.

Third, the source. Where does this stuff come from? We know that comets can hit the Moon and deposit water, and over the past couple of billion years may have dumped as much as ten trillion liters of water on the surface. Pummeling by the solar wind and micrometeorites over the eons will mix that with the surface dust, giving (theoretically) the right amount of water seen.

However, there’s more: the amount of water detected changed over the month-long lunar day. There was more at local morning, and less at noon a week later. This seems to imply strongly that the Sun is doing something here. Suppositions are that the solar wind, which is thick with hydrogen, slams into the lunar rock, freeing oxygen, which then combine to form water. Sunlight tends to break this water up, but as I understand it mixing later on in the night time could form water molecules. So we see the most water in the morning and the abundance drops by noon.

This image, from Deep Impact, shows that correlation. The left part shows the temperature of the Moon: hottest on the right where it’s local noon, and coolest on the left, near sunrise. The right image shows the water levels: lowest where it’s hot, highest where it’s cold. So it’s really clear the Sun is affecting the water levels.

moonwater_DImap

Fourth, why this is surprising. Rocks brought back from the Moon (notably from Apollo) are really deficient in water. In fact, they were incredibly dry. So finding water, especially in levels like 0.1 – 1%, is shocking.

An important finding is that the water levels appear to be only on the surface. Radar and such can penetrate much farther and can map hydrogen, which has been seen near the poles but not lower latitudes where these new data show the water. However, radar isn’t sensitive to a thin surface layer, so can easily miss this water.

So previous findings totally missed this water due to circumstances, even though the water was right there. We just needed to have the right instruments at the right time in the right place, and once we did, bam! Water.

So there you go: water on the Moon, all over the place, from the cratered highlands to the smoother darker plains, in amounts up to a liter per cubic meter of material (a quart per cubic yard). Scientifically it’s a big surprise, and that’s always cool and fun. Practically, it means that eventually, lunar colonies may be able to extract water from the lunar surface. There’s a big push right now to figure out how to mine the Moon’s dust to extract oxygen and other necessary materials for a colony, and now it looks like they may get a bonus out of it.

How will this affect our plans to return to the Moon? I’m not sure. But I can guarantee that a lot of folks who have been having fun playing with ideas to mine the Moon are already sharpening their pencils. The Moon is the nearest astronomical object in the sky, and arguably the best studied. Yet it it can hide the very thing we look for most, right in plain sight… or in this case, in the plain sites.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to learn, but we have to go there to find out. I say we do it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space

Comments (91)

  1. Kerry Maxwell

    So the moon is made of Cap’n Crunch is what your saying, right?

  2. JIM

    So is this OH all actual water or OH bound up in minerals (like in rust) I wonder? Interesting stuff!

  3. O
    M
    F
    S
    M
    !

    This is BIG NEWS!

    A liter per cubic meter! That’s more water than in Phoenix in June.

    Is it possible that the water is forming like dew on the lunar surface? Would that mean that the water is transitory and only exists on the outer surfaces of the lunar rocks and regolith?
    That would be consistent with the samples being brought back being dry, they were damp when Neil and Buzz and Pete and Alan and Al and Ed and Dave and Jim and John and Charlie and Gene and Jack picked them up, but dried as soon as they were exposed to the heat and atmosphere of the spacecraft, wouldn’t it?

    So many questions, questions that need answers.

    Science,
    WOOT!

  4. The Other Ian

    Proof that the Apollo moon rocks were actually collected in Antarctica, where there is no water at all.

  5. That’s a great write up Dr. Plait! I wonder if anyone will complain that this isn’t a Geology Blog, but an Astronomy Blog, or some other nonesense…

    I think that when the FX guys were making the rocks for the Apollo program, they baked them in an oven and dried them out. We didn’t know that much about the moon back then. :P

  6. Well, that cinches it. Kevin Costner’s Waterworld II: Moonsplash — coming in 2012!

  7. I’m glad you used an image from Deep Impact. So much better than an image from Armageddon.

  8. Brian Schlosser

    That is so amazingly cool! Like, so cool its friggin amazing! It’s so cool I’ll have to break out my “o” smiley of shock and amazement: :-0

    Up to a liter per cubic meter is even more amazing! I’ve always suspected there WAS water up there (I mean, there’s SOME water almost EVERYwhere) but an actual, conceivably USABLE amount, and not squirelled away in a polar glacier (which I also think is probably there) is even more amazing!

    This is turning into The Year of the Moon!

  9. DrFlimmer

    Of course, there had to be water on the moon! How else should have survived the man in the moon?

    Btw: Thanks a lot, Phil! A very good analogy to explain absorption-spectra. With your permission I will use it myself! I will call it “Crunching molecules”!

  10. Chris

    I completely agree with your last sentence – back to the moon, for an extended stay this time!

  11. allen derico

    I have a car with over 300,000 miles on it. I make 20 times what my father made in his day but I can only dream of owning my own home and even with health insurance I can’t afford to fix my teeth. Who cares if there is water on the moon?

  12. If there’s water, does that mean there might be whalers?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hKbl4AeqpM

    (ignore the first 20 seconds of Portuguese. Lousy youtube)

  13. (imagine shopping for cereal at the grocery store, and there’s a gap on the shelf where Cap’n Crunch should be; you would surmise that’s a popular cereal and is being absorbed by consumers.

    That is one of the best description of what electromagnetic absorption is that I have ever heard.

  14. Supernova

    Ditto TechSkeptic: loving the Cap’n Crunch analogy!

  15. Wow! this is amazing news !!

  16. TS

    Soon we will buy bottled water from the moon, Moon Juice? Lunar Nectar?

  17. Jeremy H.

    Thanks Phil. This is a great post, and an amazing find for our return to the moon (hopefully permanently, this time!)

    I’m curious, though.. Why hadn’t any of the spectra taken over the last couple of hundred years shown water? Surely since we discovered spectroscopy, we’ve … ‘prismed’ the moon thousands of times? I can understand low optical resolvability from that distance, but if we can detect biochemicals in nebulae light years away, surely some hydroxyl absorption lines should show up in the photon stream from 380,000 km?

    Not doubting the findings, just wondering why it hadn’t been noticed before.

  18. jim moore

    You know this made me think of comets. When we look at the material coming off a comet we see the hydroxyl signature.
    But is it water sublimating from the surface? or
    Is the solar wind interacting with rock (mineral oxides) and producing the hydroxyl signal that we see? (just like on the moon)

  19. JoeZo

    Wow. Fantastic. Do we have the data / spacecraft to check mars for water?

  20. I thought this site was supposed to be about astronomy! ;-) Sorry, just wanted to take the pee out of those annoying people who write that when you use sound arguments to destroy their wooey nonsense.
    I won’t make a habit of writing this or I’ll have to cut & paste it so many times with the bazzillion astronomy articles you write.

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. That said, willfully laying on Cassini data?

    Sunlight tends to break this water up, but as I understand it mixing later on in the night time could form water molecules. So we see the most water in the morning and the abundance drops by noon.

    Oh, so it’s Moon tan dew?

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #15 Jeremy:

    Wouldn’t atmosphere water absorption overwhelm your Moon observations big time?

  23. Yousuf Khan

    What’s the implications for the current favored theory about Moon formation, the Giant Impactor Theory? Does this put that theory in jeopardy?

  24. dhtroy

    I can almost see the Bottled Lunar Water being sold in Big Box stores now . . .

    Pure.
    Fresh.
    No Earthly impurities.
    and Light tasting … because there’s less gravity on the Moon …

    :rolls eyes:
    :)

  25. lit

    dumb question: why did we need a spacecraft to see this? couldn’t we have aimed an earth-based detector at the moon long ago and seen the same absorbtion profile?

  26. Ami Silberman

    No. The problem is that the Earth’s atmosphere has lots of water in it, so any absorbtion by water on the moon would be masked.

  27. L

    I told one of my coworkers about the newfound water on the moon, and you know what he said?

    “No, I don’t accept that.”

    …………..

    Yeah.

  28. * “How will this affect our plans to return to the Moon? ”

    It isn’t going to affect humankind’s plans to return to the Moon at all because humans aren’t going back to the Moon. You can stop dreaming about humans visiting Mars, too, since that is another event which isn’t ever going to happen.

    Discovering water on the Moon is wonderful news, I suppose, but humankind’s problems on the Earth are going to overwhelm our civilization’s fantasies of conquering space. Humankind’s domination of the Earth is tenuous at best and declining fast.

    Space is not an environment hospitable to human life. With water, without water, it makes no difference … the Moon is not a hospitable habitat for humankind.

    Humans really should take better care of the Earth because the Earth is humankind’s only home. Humans evolved on the Earth and humans will go extinct on the Earth.

  29. Nekura

    A liter per cubic meter sounds good, but the waters only in the top millimeter or so, so mining would have to process a square kilometer of soil just to get that one liter.

  30. The Other Ian

    I agree this probably would not have been detectable from the ground without a very large number of observations. But I do have to wonder why this has never been detected by spacecraft before. For example, here is an abstract from a 1976 paper describing lunar spectroscopy in this range taken from Salyut 4. I don’t have access to the article or I would read it and possibly answer my own question, but why wasn’t it noticed then? I don’t think the exosphere has a significant amount of atmospheric water.

  31. Keith

    How does 0.1%-1% moisture content compare to earth soils? Is it comparable to desert soil..?

  32. Mike Mullen

    “I have a car with over 300,000 miles on it. I make 20 times what my father made in his day but I can only dream of owning my own home and even with health insurance I can’t afford to fix my teeth. Who cares if there is water on the moon?”
    Well the kind of people who come to this site, and if you think space exploration has anything to do with your economic circumstances then you really need to take a close look at The US Federal budget.
    ========================================
    “Discovering water on the Moon is wonderful news, I suppose, but humankind’s problems on the Earth are going to overwhelm our civilization’s fantasies of conquering space. Humankind’s domination of the Earth is tenuous at best and declining fast.”

    Actually if anything its our increasing domination that’s the problem, and the best reason to go looking for resources from elsewhere so we can conserve this planet.

  33. amphiox

    “humans will go extinct on the Earth”

    If we don’t try to colonize space then this is most certainly guaranteed.

    The prudent course of action would seem self-evident.

  34. alfaniner

    So this means, within a few generations we could actually be surfing in the Sea of Tranquility!

  35. Coyley

    Does this make the Moon a water sign? This is going to have huge impact on all my chart…I’d better call Madam Szédelgõ

  36. hil

    @ Nekura, so slightly adapted Roombas could harvest ;) easier than digging….

  37. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    I just stumbled upon this website declaring WATER ON THE MOON: RUDE_URL

  38. IVAN3MAN

    Deleted by author.

  39. lit

    @ Ami 27:
    duh, of course. thanks.

  40. rca

    Nakura says:
    >A liter per cubic meter sounds good, but the waters only in the top millimeter or so, so mining would have to process a square kilometer of soil just to get that one liter.

    Right. And the mining has to be done between sundown and sunrise (in the dark), because the water is mostly gone during the day.

    That also explains why the astronauts brought back dry rocks – they were picked up during the day. Also core samples would be dry except for the top millimeter, and even the top millimeter would be dry if they were cored during the day, which they were.

  41. pontoppi

    A little curious fact in this context is that the Earth is also really dry. The water content of the Earth is only about 0.05% by mass. It just all happens to be on the surface. Outer solar system bodies, such as some moons of Jupiter and Saturn, not to mention comets, are maybe 10-50% water.

  42. @David

    Never is a very very very long time. Absolute certainty is almost always wrong. One of humanities greatest traits is our adaptability. Almost every environment on earth has been “colonised” to some extent. Even the ISS has been continuously inhabited for almost 10 years.

  43. 29. David Says: “‘“How will this affect our plans to return to the Moon?’
    It isn’t going to affect humankind’s plans to return to the Moon at all because humans aren’t going back to the Moon. You can stop dreaming about humans visiting Mars, too, since that is another event which isn’t ever going to happen.”

    Way to suck the air out of the room, Dave.

    - Jack

  44. So, you’re saying that the maria really do contain water? At least for part of the day?

    - Jack

  45. Jason

    @Dave “Man will never fly.”

  46. Mal

    Visiting the local news website yesterday I found what I considered to be a fail regarding the image they used. I grabbed a screen shot just in case they changed it in the end (they did). Is it Enceladus?
    http://two-more-gaps.blogspot.com/2009/09/moon-fail.html

  47. kingnor

    the astronauts came back with DUST on them, not MUD. hoax!

  48. Andrew

    Yeah, it’d be nice if we can actually land some people on the moon finally and find out once and for all if there’s water. And this time, please bring some Ruskis along, they are terrible at lying. Have you seen the CGIs in their movies? Worst than Hollywood in the 70s.

  49. Phil, Please don’t use the word frakking. It brings up bad memories of Battlestar Galactica.

  50. Plutonium being from Pluto

    I still think water trapped as ice in deep polar craters is a better bet, but we’ll see. That’s spitballing on my part.

    Huh? What’s that last bit about “spitballing” sposed to mean BA?

    Surely *that’s* NOT how the water got there! ;-)

    Obviously, there’s a lot more to learn, but we have to go there to find out. I say we do it.

    Me too – I can’t wait for us to go back and it was really awesome seeing that Ares rocket test firing the other day too. I get the feeling things are finally starting to happen there at last!

    Here’s my list of five good reason’s why I think we should go back to our Moon – I’ve posted these here before but I think they bear repeating again & I hope y’all don’t mind :

    1. Helium three which could be a fuel of the future.

    2. Water, possibly minerals - we may find that extracting ores from the Moon works cheaply and easily and, of course, won’t have the environmental or social issues we get on Earth. Uranium mining on the Moon, for instance, could help stop the worries about radioactive elements being launched from Earth, avoiding the sort of protests that, for instanceCassini suffered with its RTG component. Maybe we could actually build such spacecraft and launch them from the Moon itself?

    3. The Moon also offers a low gee, hard vacuum environment which could have its advantages for some industrial processes – and a wide range of temperatures. Ditto. The Moon would also be an ideal place for using solar power : long days, no clouds (or air) in the way, huge tracts of land available and some locations with permanent sunshine – polar craters.

    4. The opportunity to practice colonisation and artificial ecological sustainability techniques and learn how to create artificial biomes (think the “Biosphere II” experiment) more rigourously than on Earth and perhaps more accurately – for planetary environments than space stations but in a way that may be more ethically responsible than on Mars – *if* Mars has some life forms of its own.

    5. Dare I suggest tourism? No seriously, if places like Antartica and Mt Everest are becoming tourist sites of sorts (& they are) then why not the Moon too?

    Plus on the Moon there is the ability for humans to actually fly under their own power! Apparently, in the low lunar gravity with sufficent space to fly in and a pair of strapped on wings, Humans can run, jump, flap their arms and actually fly like birds. I’d love to see – & do – that. All we need is a large enough space on the Moon and ..wow! I kid you not.

    Isaac Asimov also noted in a short story* about the … umm .. romantic delights offered by low gravity – specifically for Mars but this could work (play?) better yet on the Moon! (Not in zero-gee though where Newton’s “every action has an equal & opposite reaction” law probably makes things more awkward.) In essence, just imagine holding your favourite girl (or guy) in your arms at one sixth or one sixteeneth gee.. Not that this latter advantage would be a reason to go in itself – more an extra bonus but still… :-D

    Now all we need is to get the fungineers designing the Lunar theme park…

    —–

    We’re whalers on the Moon,
    We carry our harpoons
    But there ain’t no whales
    So we sing tall tales
    And (? act like drunk baboons?)
    - ‘Futurama’ Lunar epsiode (Ok I forget the last line there .. )

    * Asimov’s low gee romance pleasures story by the way was titled “I’m In Marsport Without Hilda” & is included in several of his anthologies such as ‘Nine Tomorrows.’ (Pan, 1982.) Its a great story and one I’d heartily recomend being bright and funny and quite romantic and, esp. for Asimov, somewhat risque!

    PS. Thanks to ‘Asimov fan’ here for the last few paragraphs re: flying & romance & the asterisked bit there. You said “add these to the list” & as you can see – I have! :-)

  51. Flying sardines

    Water on the moon?

    Of course, there’s water on the moon – the moon Europa, the moon Enceladus, the moon Ganymede, the Moon Phoebe, the moon Triton, the moon Miranda, the moon Charon, the moon Callisto, the moon Dione, the moon Mimas, the moon Tethys, the moon Pandora,the moon Atlas, etc ..

    I think you mean there’s water on *our* Moon! ;-)

    After all, to paraphrase the Doctor many planets have a moon … & north!

    Still great news & a good write up here!

  52. JB of Brisbane

    Looks like the people at the Book of Lists are going to have to add another mystery to that list of “Ten Puzzling Moon Mysteries” they printed years ago… of which about 9.5 have been solved by now.
    And Devlin – try thinking of the modern Galactica, the one Phil is a fan of, instead of the Lorne Green/Dirk Benedict era, or even worse, Barry Van Dyke/Kent McCord.

  53. try thinking of the modern Galactica … instead of the Lorne Green/Dirk Benedict era

    Nah, I have enough trouble managing my misanthropic tendencies without thinking of new BG. I’ll take the one where the protagonists weren’t almost universally loathsome.

  54. Spectroscope

    A question for everyone:

    Is it possible that the same situation with water in the dust also applies to Mercury?

    If so, could we detect it either from Earth or with, say, the Messenger & Bepi-Columbo spacecraft?

    Thanks BA – more great astronomy news. :-)

  55. Dr Cy Coe in NL

    Cool news, lovely article. Go science!

    Sciency question: Why are the red areas in the moonwater_chandryaan picture ’smeared’ vertically and why are the blue areas not?

    Some of the red ’stripes’ are fairly bright with absolutely no red next to it. Is the Hydroxyl absorption detector not working 100%? Or is it measuring at different times and did one pass of the satellite take place over the area while there was much absorption and did the next pass for the adjacent area occur while there was less/no absorption?

  56. BigBob

    Late to the party but I have an observation, and a question BA.
    From your description of the Deep Impact image:

    > This image, from Deep Impact, shows that correlation. The left part shows the
    > temperature of the Moon: hottest on the right where it’s local noon, and coolest
    > on the left, near sunrise. The right image shows the water levels: lowest where
    > it’s hot, highest where it’s cold. So it’s really clear the Sun is affecting the water
    > levels.

    Either something doesn’t exactly fit, or I’m doing it wrong. I’m looking at the full size image linked to at NASA.gov and what it shows is a view of the Moon’s northern hemisphere. So the terminator in the image is marking sunrise in the lower half of the images and sunset in the top half, (the Moon is rotating counter-clockwise). That has to mean that the rightmost image, (water signature) shows that water is only slightly less abundant at sunset than it is at sunrise. How can that be, if the sun is drying the regolith out?

    With big thanks BA for a fine write up. I can’t get enough of this.
    BigBob

  57. Damon

    Hmmm. And I’ll bet you they’ve known about it for 50 years. I wonder what occasioned the sudden bout of truthiness? Usually the NASA puppet-show feeds us just enough to pique our interest but not enough to put the Church in it’s place, GOD FORBID we learn the truth and shatter the judeo-christian foundation of this stupid country.

  58. Stan9FOS

    I say we send Sam Rockwell up there to get mining operations started! Gerty FTW!
    (P.S. and there’s the Cap’n Crunch tie-in – Rockwell is seen eating cereal in most all of his movies, including Moon. Good call again, Phil! P.P.S. And if I must say so: Mmmmm… Cap’n Crunch…)

  59. Grogok

    Fantastic ! Lets stop wasting the resources and efforts on this planet by fighting with each other and make space exploration the focus of Humankind. One way is to abolish religion, as this is presently the main difference that is keeping humans apart.

    Go Star Trek !!!!!!!! We need to adpot the Star Trek philosphies and refocus our priorities of life and needs.

  60. Steve A

    Phil, one question on point number 4. From several accounts I read, it wasn’t that the signature was missed in the Apollo rocks. They did show traces of water, but from my understanding everyone thought it was due to the humidity on Earth.

  61. A liter per cubic meter sounds good, but the waters only in the top millimeter micron or so, so mining would have to process a square kilometer of soil just to get that one liter.

    Fixed it for ya, Nekura ;)

    (I’m inclined to think you would have to process 1 km2, though.

  62. TJ

    One week a committee reports that there’s no substantial reason for a manned space program. The next week, water is suddenly announced simultaneously on Mars (well, white stuff) – and on the moon (well, hydroxl ion), which has been probed for decades.

    Is this science or politics?

  63. TJ

    I don’t remember this “water on the moon” story being big news 14 months ago -

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/07/080709-moon-water.html

    … notice that funds for that study were denied for 3 years because ‘everybody knew’ there was no water on the moon.

    Of course that news didn’t happen a few days before an exciting lunar impact event.

    Yesterday it was revealed that Viking *would* have found water on Mars in 1976, IF only it had dug 3 inches deeper. But it didn’t, because “everybody knew” there was no water on Mars.

    Now “everyone knows” there’s water on the moon. No damn wonder the public doesn’t trust science reporting.

  64. TJ

    One week a committee reports that there’s no substantial reason for a manned space program. The next week, water is suddenly announced simultaneously on Mars (well, white stuff) – and on the moon (well, hydroxl ion), which has been probed for decades.

    Is this science or politics?

    14 months ago it was reported that water had been discovered on the moon.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/07/080709-moon-water.html
    That study had been unfunded for 3 years because “everyone knew” there was no water on the moon. Is that why we missed it until now? Anyway … that study aroused no hoopla.

    Yesterday it was also revealed that Viking would have found ice on Mars in 1976 *if only* it had dug 3.5 inches deeper – but it didn’t because “everyone knew” there was no water on Mars.

    I guess all this sudden acceptance for water being on Mars and the Moon will help people to appreciate the big lunar impact coming up in a few days. Now that “everyone knows” there’s water on both of them.

  65. TJ

    14 months ago it was reported that water had been discovered on the moon.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/07/080709-moon-water.html
    That study had been unfunded for 3 years because “everyone knew” there was no water on the moon. Is that why we missed it until now? Anyway … that study aroused no hoopla.

    Yesterday it was also revealed that Viking would have found ice on Mars in 1976 *if only* it had dug 3.5 inches deeper – but it didn’t because “everyone knew” there was no water on Mars.

    I guess all this sudden acceptance for water being on Mars and the Moon will help people to appreciate the big lunar impact coming up in a few days. Now that “everyone knows” there’s water on both of them.

  66. Jack

    The fact that they assumed there’s absolutely no water on the moon to begin with makes me wonder how smart these scientists are. They don’t understand that the Moon is made up of the left over material from Earth. It took millions of dollars and who knows how many scientists to figure this out when they could’ve just sent me an email.

  67. clyde

    I would like to know if this is one-upsmanship or luck? Lcross should hit the moon Oct.9th and discover water. Now what? Is it good for anything other than a new zit on on the chin? I guess NASA didn’t talk to the Indian space agency. Oh well, cooler than recycled ISS water.

  68. Asimov Fan

    @ 52. Plutonium being from Pluto:

    PS. Thanks to ‘Asimov fan’ here for the last few paragraphs re: flying & romance & the asterisked bit there. You said “add these to the list” & as you can see – I have!

    No worries – my pleasure. :-)

  69. Flying sardines

    Water water everywhere & not a drop to drink
    Youve got to sort it from Moon dust first
    It sure gives pause to think!

    By the time you’ve water from your dust,
    Your thirst is past the blink!

    - With apologies to ?somebody? Taylor Coleridge.

    (The guy who wrote Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner- I think. If I’m recalling correctly that is.)

    Over tired doggrel of the night. ;-)

    Thought for the day : Do people who ask to “see what your made of” really consider the fact that all humans are composed of 90% water & what that then implies about what they’re asking for? ;-)

  70. Spectroscope

    A returning link to the link I added here on that later thread (where I’ve again asked the question here in comment 57) linked below:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/09/26/image-of-future-lcross-lunar-impact-site/

    This thread takes you to that thread, takes you to this thread, takes you to that thread, takes you to … ad infinitum! (Potentially.) ;-)

  71. marc sefcik

    i just can’t buy it. maybe this is a stupid comparison, but in a freezer an ice cube will evaporate. how can ice exist in a VACCUM? after a million years, i would think that with no real replinishment, a kilo from a comet every century?, the entire moon would evaporate were it made of pure ice! oh, well… i’m not a scientist. still i bet on no water. yet we must travel to the moon and beyond.

  72. jdf

    Mankind’s Manifest Destiny in Space: Why go to the Moon, why go to Mars and beyond? It should be obvious for those who claim we have enough problems on the Earth without going elsewhere. The reason is survival of the species! Our fragile ecosystem on Earth, with or without Mankind’s tutelege remains prone to planet-wide disasters annihlating all or most species for a re-birth. It is up to mankind to fine a way to break that cycle of destruction and rebirth. One way is to spread the seeds of mankind on other worlds for better risk management. We are ingrained as a species with the need to explore and expand our horizons and habitat. The boundary of a vacuum and inhospitable environment of space under current technology is no different than that faced by our ancestors on Earth taking to the unforgiving seas in simple wooden contractions and minimal knowledge of destinations. Wake up! Work to manage our current ecosystem, but don’t keep all our eggs in one basket and realize we must forever seek a greater number of habitats for perpetual survival. C’mon! We can’t let the dinosaurs hold the species survival record forever…

  73. shari

    I have the plan-the hundreds of millions the US spends each year giving death row inmates and other prisoners HD TV, Internet and cell phones custom meals and top of the line everything, will instead be spent to turn the prisoners into workers in a penal colony on the moon, where they will extract the water and prepare the land for future generations, sort of like how Australia came about.

  74. Hop

    “600 Million Tonnes of Water on the Moon … This is actually old news. Discussed in September”

    Ummm….. No.

    Phil’s September article reported on the findings of Chandrayaan’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3).

    The March article reported on findings of Chandrayaan’s Mini-SAR radar.

    M3 discovered sparse hydroxyls mixed in lunar regolith.

    Mini-SAR seems to have discovered ice sheets at least two meters thick.
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Mini-RF/multimedia/feature_ice_like_deposits.html

    Lay people continue to confuse these two very different discoveries. Which is sad, the mini-SAR findings have much greater implications so far as possible lunar resources go.

    Once again:

    Sheets of ice. At least two meters thick.

  75. skypoetone

    The water must come from the snow that comes through the atmosphere that isn’t there… or is that Mars?

    “GOD FORBID we learn the truth and shatter the judeo-christian foundation of this stupid country” – Excellent post BTW.

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