Suddenly, the moon looks exciting again. It has lots of water, scientists said Friday — a thrilling discovery that sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.
Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. Confirmation came from data churned up by two NASA spacecraft that intentionally slammed into a lunar crater last month.
“Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, holding up a white water bucket for emphasis.
The lunar crash kicked up at least 25 gallons and that’s only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact, Colaprete said.
Some space policy experts say that makes the moon attractive for exploration again. Having an abundance of water would make it easier to set up a base camp for astronauts, supplying drinking water and a key ingredient for rocket fuel.
“Having definitive evidence that there is substantial water is a significant step forward in making the moon an interesting place to go,” said George Washington University space policy scholar John Logsdon.
Even so, members of the blue-ribbon panel reviewing NASA’s future plans said it doesn’t change their conclusion that the program needs more money to get beyond near-Earth orbit. The panel wants NASA to look at other potential destinations like asteroids and Mars.
“This new and terrific result reassures us about lunar resources, but … the challenges currently facing the human spaceflight program remain,” Chris Chyba, a Princeton astrophysicist who is on the panel, said in an e-mail.
President George W. Bush had proposed a more than $100 billion plan to return astronauts to the moon, then go on to Mars; a test flight of an early version of a new rocket was a success last month. President Barack Obama appointed the special panel to look at the entire moon exploration program. The decision is now up to the White House, and NASA’s lunar plans are somewhat on hold until then.
The water is inside the rock, not in pools or lakes like this: