Drink up Johnny, There’s Water on the Moon

Posted: October 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Water? Yeah, We Got Water…

Bloomberg reports on a favorable finding; there’s lots more water on the moon than previously thought…

The amount of water discovered on the moon last year when scientists purposely slammed a rocket into the lunar south pole may be enough to help set up a space fueling station, according to latest data from the mission.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration crashed the Centaur rocket into a crater called Cabeus, kicking up about two tons of material estimated to contain 5.6 percent water, according to reports in the journal Science. That’s more water by mass than in the Sahara desert, which has 2 to 3 percent.

There may be sufficient water to separate into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, and use the hydrogen for rocket fuel, said Anthony Colaprete, a planetary scientist for NASA at the Ames Research Laboratory in California and an author of three of the papers. That could mean the moon would be useful as a launching point for missions to other destinations, such as a moon of Saturn or Jupiter.

Why is this important?  Because the moon is a great point of departure for space exploration:

The moon is an ideal stop-over because its gravity is one- sixth of earth’s, and about 2 million pounds of fuel are required to get into low earth orbit, Colaprete said.

“Once you get off earth, you’ve used a certain amount of fuel, and if you want to go somewhere else, you have to bring that fuel, but that makes it even harder to get off earth,” Colaprete said. “If you can find resources on the moon, or anywhere else, we can use them to generate fuel in space, and use that infrastructure to bring humans to other places.”

Still…is 5.6 percent a big deal?

Only half a percent of ice by mass would be enough to make it worthwhile to extract water and separate it into its principal components, Colaprete said. And water is better than other forms of hydrogen because it takes less energy to separate from oxygen than to take out hydrogen bound in rock, he said.

So what does this suggest, planning-wise?  Perhaps that Mars missions and asteroid landings should take a backseat to a moon station.

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