Friday, October 22, 2010

Water on the Moon: a Billion Gallons

Maybe it is time for the Obama administration to reevaluate its stance on cutbacks and bring back the Bush plans for a lunar outpost. Deeming such exploration "unaffordable" while billions of dollars are being wasted on unneeded "stimulus" projects is hypocritical.

In addition, without meaningful projects for our space effort, we have eliminated many of the technical jobs needed to advance our lead in the space race. This has significant implications for our military defense status. It is time for us to redirect our priorities.

The ice could be melted and purified for drinking and cooling of spacecraft systems -- and beyond that, it could also be broken down into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen could be used as rocket fuel; oxygen could be used for breathing.

"This place looks like it's a treasure chest of elements, of compounds that have been released all over the moon and they've been put in this bucket in the permanent shadows," said planetary geologist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Rhode Island in a statement.

How much water did they actually find? The researchers said the satellite measured about 41 gallons in the debris from the 60-foot crater gouged out by the crashing rocket. Since the ice was mixed in with rock and dust, its chemical signature -- H2O -- was mixed in with the myriad minerals to be found in lunar soil.

There is no saying whether astronauts will get to use that ice any time soon. The Obama administration early this year canceled the Constellation project, which had been proposed by President George W. Bush, to return astronauts to the moon and eventually send them on to Mars. They will still go to Mars, someday, but the moon plans, when given another look, appeared unaffordable.

But scientists' image of the moon has changed since the Apollo astronauts came home. Anthony Colaprete, the chief mission scientist, said Cabeus crater was like an "oasis in a lunar desert."

Water on the Moon: a Billion Gallons

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