In what could one day be used for drinking or extracting hydrogen for fuel, NASA today announced that the moon contains a 'significant amount' of water.
The confirmation was made after the space agency slammed a LCROSS rocket into the moon's surface last month -- kicking up a plume of lunar dust that was analyzed for the presence of the wet stuff. "We got more than just a whiff," Peter H. Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator of the mission told the NY Times. "We practically tasted it with the impact."
The $79 million probe sent back the signature for water in both infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopic measurements; prompting scientists and researches to remain confident in their findings.
According to MSNBC, the team estimated that there was about 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of water in the view of their instruments, which took in the area of the impact crater (about 80 feet or 20 meters across) and the ejecta blanket (about 200 to 260 feet across, or 60 to 80 meters). That amount of water is roughly the equivalent of a dozen 2-gallon buckets.
Obviously, the moon's surface is a far cry from the wet one Earth enjoys, but scientists estimate that at the very least, it has more water than some of our planet's driest deserts.
As NASA is readying to return astronauts to the moon in 2020 for extended lunar missions, having access to a local resource like water would make things a bit easier. Hydrogen can be derived from water for use as a rocket fuel -- and the ice plume kicked up by last month's probe would also be of the drinkable variety. "If you could clean it, it would be drinkable water," said NASA's Anthony Colaprete.
Now that the exciting news is out, NASA is next studying the results to try and figure out where the water may have come from. Comets and solar winds are possibilities, as are "giant molecular clouds". One thing's for sure, researchers are now looking at the lunar surface with fresh eyes and reexamining what else our closest neighbor might be hiding. Said NASA's Doug Cooke, "This is not your father's moon; this is not a dead planetary body."