Okay, so you would have had to read Stephen’s King’s novel “the Stand” to get the title I chose for this posting but the science fiction part rings true enough this time. Believe it or not after all these years, NASA says they have found water on the Moon or at least traces of it.
The moon isn’t the dry dull place it seems. Traces of water lurk in the dirt unseen.
Three different space probes found the chemical signature of water all over the moon’s surface, surprising the scientists who at first doubted the unexpected measurement until it was confirmed independently and repeatedly.
It’s not enough moisture to foster homegrown life on the moon. But if processed in mass quantities, it might provide resources – drinking water and rocket fuel – for future moon-dwellers, scientists say. The water comes and goes during the lunar day.
The discovery, with three studies bring published in the journal Science on Thursday and a NASA briefing, could refocus interest in the moon. The appeal of the moon waned after astronauts visited 40 years ago and called it “magnificent desolation.”
The announcement comes two weeks before a NASA probe purposely smashes near the moon’s south pole to see if it can kick up buried ice. Over the last decade, astronomers have found some signs of underground ice on the moon’s poles. But this latest discovery is quite different. It finds unexpected and pervasive water clinging to the surface of soil, not absorbed into it.
“It’s sort of just sticking on the surface,” Sunshine said. “We always think of the moon as dead and this is sort of a dynamic process that’s going on.”
It’s not a lot of water. If you took a two-liter soda bottle of lunar dirt, there would probably be a medicine dropperful of water in it, said University of Maryland astronomer Jessica Sunshine, one of the scientists who discovered the water. Another way to think of it is if you want a drink of water, it would take a baseball diamond’s worth of dirt, said team leader Carle Pieters of Brown University.
NASA will hold a media briefing today (9/22) to disclose their findings and discuss the new data.
NASA will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new science data from the moon collected during national and international space missions. NASA Television and the agency’s Web site will provide live coverage of the briefing from the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, in Washington.
The briefing participants are:
- Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Carle Pieters, principal investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Brown University
- Rob Green, project instrument scientist, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
- Roger Clark, team member, Cassini spacecraft Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer and co-investigator, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, U.S. Geological Survey in Denver
- Jessica Sunshine, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s Deep Impact extended mission and co-investigator for Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video, visit their website.