Evidence of water found on moon

Scientists announced tonight that they have discovered “buckets” of water on the Moon following the analysis of data from a spacecraft that was deliberately crashed into a lunar crater last month.

The researchers said the evidence for the existence of significant bodies of water ice hidden in polar craters on the Moon is “definitive” and that the total quantities could be big enough to support a permanently-manned lunar base.

It is the first time that the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has been so categorical about the discovery of water on the Moon. Previous studies had only suggested that the presence of water might be possible and then only in trace amounts.

However, a painstakingly detailed analysis of the data from the LCROSS spacecraft, which was deliberately crashed into the Cabeus crater near the Lunar South Pole, has revealed a definitive chemical signature of water vapour in the plume of dust and debris that was released on impact.

In just one crater, the team estimates that there was at least 100 kilograms of water, enough to fill a dozen, two-gallon buckets. If similar amounts of water exist in other polar craters permanently shaded from sunlight there could be enough water available on the Moon to be used as drinking water for a lunar base – or used as a source of rocket fuel.

Anthony Colaprete, the principal scientist of LCROSS (the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite), said that the “eureka moment” came when the team saw a spectroscopic line indicating the presence of the OH water molecule, which could only exist if water was present in the crater.

“What we found was indeed water...We vetted it, vetted it, vetted it, vetted it and vetted it some more as a team...I’m pretty impressed by the amount of water we see in this small, 20-metre crater,” Dr Colaprete said at a press briefing from Nasa’s Ames Research Centre in California.

“It’s safe to say it’s not a frozen lake with a perfectly frozen surface. It was probably mixed in with the surface. It would be an interesting place to walk around,” Dr Colaprete said.

Mike Wargo from Nasa said: “We’ve discovered significant quantities of water in a permanently-shaded crater on the Moon. We’re not just talking of water on the Moon, but lots of water.”

When LCROSS was crashed into the Moon, it was expected to eject a visible plume of debris six-miles high that was supposed to have been visible from Earth. However, Nasa scientists said at the time that the absence of a visible plume did not mean that the mission was a failure.

Nasa’s Gregory Delory said that the discovery is one of the most exciting to be made in connection with lunar exploration. “If we find water in large enough amounts it could be used as a resource for human exploration,” Dr Delory said.

“Now we know there’s water there thanks to LCROSS we can go to the next set of questions. It’s a new picture of the Moon. It’s going to be a very exciting time,” he said.

One of the unresolved questions is how the water could have got to the Moon. One theory is that it arrived on a comet and never evaporated in the shaded polar craters where temperatures are minus 220C.

Another possibility is that the water arrived on a solar wind, which is a stream of ionised hydrogen gas. A third theory is that is was dropped by a molecular cloud, or dropped by ice-laden cosmic dust. It might even be terrestrial water kicked up from Earth in a gigantic asteroid impact.

Nasa estimates that there are 12,500 square kilometres of permanently-shadowed terrain on the Moon and if the top 1 metre of this area were to hold just 1 per cent by mass of water, this would still produce thousands of litres of water.

It is not the first time that spacecraft have crashed into the Moon. In 1998, Nasa's Lunar Prospector mission was deliberately crashed into a crater, which confirmed the presence of hydrogen, which may or may not have come from ancient stores of frozen water deposited in lunar craters over billions of years by passing comets.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn