*Well, wetter than we thought. The Moon’s surface is still much drier than any Earth desert.
The Thursday announcement by the Brown University team (and co-workers) that water (in minute amounts) is widespread on the Moon led to my video interview yesterday (9/24) on Fox News Channel. Carle Pieters and her co-workers used the Indian lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1 and their Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument to detect tiny amounts of water and hydroxyl molecules in the top few millimeters of the lunar soil. Perhaps implanted by solar wind protons combining with oxygen in the surface rocks, the water could be trapped on extremely cold crater floors near the lunar poles. Although the water is transient on the Moon’s sunlit side, it is there, and future prospectors (robots and astronauts) could harvest this water by gently heating the soil and collecting the vapor.
This observational proof of lunar water will be added to the results of the LCROSS satellite impact on Oct. 9, with hopes that the impact plume will toss trapped ice into the view of observing telescopes aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Hubble, and ground-based instruments. Finding ice in the shadowed lunar craters would add additional excitement to this week’s discovery and build interest in going after what could be a practical resource for future explorers.
I liked Carle Pieters’ analogy: a baseball diamond-sized area of lunar soil might yield just a small sip of water. But that’s huge in terms of the Moon’s future importance to exploration.