Space crash confirms water on Moon

NASA’S attack on the Moon last month DID reveal water in a lunar crater, scientists revealed tonight. Though the crashes of a spacecraft called LCROSS and its rocket booster appeared unspectacular, they created two clouds of debris that clearly show the signature of water.

The collisions happened in a permanently-shadowed crater near the Moon’s south pole that had not seen sunlight for billions of years.

The discovery is a huge boost for plans for Man to establish colonies on the Moon because water will provide drinking supplies and can also be converted into fuel.

NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft and Centaur rocket stage made twin impacts in a crater called Cabeus crater on October 9.

Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been analysing the huge amount of data the spacecraft collected. They concentrated on results from the satellite’s spectrometers, which helped identify the composition of materials by examining light they emit or absorb.

Chief scientist Anthony Colaprete, of NASA’s Ames Research Center, California, said: “We are ecstatic. Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water.”

He added: “The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The data is that rich. Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years.”

Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbour and, by extension, the solar system. The moon harbors many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding.”

Water has also been found more widely across the Moon as molecules within the lunar soil,  scientists announced in September.

Picture: The first impact plume pictured in visible light  from LCROSS. (Credit: NASA).

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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