The NASA spacecraft that plowed into the moon last month have discovered what the space agency calls “significant amounts of water” on the lunar surface.
NASA' Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellites (LCROSS) took dead aim and crashed into the moon on 9 October. The impact of the $80 million LCROSS satellites into the Lunar surface created an ice filled debris plume that NASA analysed for water content. Since the impact NASA scientists have been working “28 hour days” to analyse the results.
NASA said scientists long have speculated about the source of significant quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings actually confirm the presence of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected, NASA said.
While previous space missions have found some water in the moon's dirt, LCROSS is expected to definitively answer how much water might be there. In the end the idea is that should the US or others ever try to establish a human outpost on the moon, they may be able to use the water present on the moon rather than having to transport it up there. Water, or more importantly oxygen, from water could also be used to create rocket fuel, enabling future space travelers to refuel on the moon or launch other explorations from there.
Key for NASA might be that if there indeed are massive amounts of water on the moon, it could be more than enough justification into continue exploring the moon with humans – something it may or may not do in the next 10 years.
Water also holds that key to the history of the universe, NASA stated. If the water that was formed or deposited is billions of years old, these polar cold traps – LCROSS crashed into a southern pole region where it was -230 Celsius – could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data.
NASA is focusing on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the most definitive information about the presence of water. NASA said it took the known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials and compared them to the impact spectra the LCROSS near-infrared spectrometer collected.
NASA said data from other LCROSS instruments are being analysed for additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at the impact site and one scientist said “lots of other stuff came out of there.” He did not elaborate on what other materials are being found and said more results would come as the experiments were verified.