The National Aeronautics and Space Administration released data on October 20th that the Moon has at least enough water to fill 1,500 swimming pools.
Today they amended that number a bit. Reports are now circulating that the Moon has up to one billion gallons of water.
Although there’ll be no rush by pool manufacturers to fill the lunar void—the Moon is virtually airless, subjected to extreme temperatures, inundated by solar storms instead of thunderstorms, and its surface pressure is zero. The abundance of water paves the way for colonization.
The dream of space factories and mining operations has long been a goal of lunar enthusiasts. The belief the Moon lacks water has been a hurdle to their plans. Water will enable a colony to be established quicker and move towards the goal of supporting itself over the long run.
Back in 2009 NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) found water ice. After it crashed into the lunar surface at a predetermined spot, analysis of the probe’s plume estimated water content of about 200 pounds.
The October 22nd issue of “Science” has revised the amount recorded upwards. A scientific paper claims the actual amount of water vapor and ice lies somewhere between 320 to 367 pounds.
Scientists are elated. They estimate that as much as 5.6 of the lunar soil blown out from the impact of LCROSS is water ice. Previously speculation centered about a much lower figure. As little as 1 percent water was thought to be contained in lunar soil. That hypothesis was primarily based on the samples of moon soil returned for laboratory analysis by the Apollo astronauts.
Yet, even a lunar soil that contained as little as 1 percent water ice would be sufficient to support the plans to construct lunar bases.
During a press conference held on October 21st, NASA planetary scientist Anthony Colaprete stated, “The number of 1 percent was generally agreed to as what was needed to be a net profit, a net return on the effort to extract it out of the dark shadows.”
Yet the indications are that water may be much more abundant than thought-perhaps as much as 5 times more than the previous calculations. “We saw 5 percent, which means that indeed where we impacted would be a net benefit to somebody looking for that resource,” Colaprete explained.
The fact that water may be in such abundance on what was one thought to be an inhospitable, arid world, is good news for exploration, and miners.
Miners? Yes, miners.
Both Russia and China have plans on their drawing boards to extensively explore the Moon with ongoing manned missions and establish bases with the purpose of surveying the lunar surface for Helium-3.
Research has led many to believe that he Moon may be rich in the element. That element—not found naturally on Earth—is critical for the future of commercial fusion reactors seen to be in place before the end of the 21st Century.
Water will play an important role in supporting such mining colonies.
The mining of Helium-3 could become a major space industry and possibly a major solution for civilization’s future energy needs.
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Wired – Science article: “The Moon Hides Ice Where the Sun Don’t Shine”