Friday, November 13, 2009

Water discovery fuels hope to colonize moon

A new chapter in space exploration has been opened up after Nasa confirmed that their mission to bomb the Moon had found "significant quantities" of frozen water.

Scientists said the "exciting" findings had gone "beyond expectations" as fully formed ice was found in a crater on the planet. They said that the ice – thought to be in granules mixed with grains of Moon dust – heralded a major leap forward in space exploration and boosted hopes of a permanent lunar base.

The water was found in one mile high plume of debris that was kicked up by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) last month when it crashed into the Cabeus crater near the Moon's south pole.

"We are ecstatic," said Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the £49 million space mission. "Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount."

He said in a "eureka moment" analysis of the plume of debris sprayed up by a 30 ft crater showed the equivalent of "a dozen two-gallon buckets" of water was thrown up by the impact.

"This is a great day for science and exploration," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of LCROSS. "The remarkable results have gone beyond our expectations. It is incredibly exciting."

The identification of water-ice in the impact plume is important for purely scientific reasons, but also because a supply of water on the Moon would be a vital resource for future human exploration.

The findings, which completely contradict previous beliefs that the Moon was a dry arid place, justify the controversial mission. It also reignites mankind's dreams of colonising Earth's only satellite. "We're unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbour and, by extension, the Solar System," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at Nasa's headquarters in Washington DC.

The mission took place on 9th October and was watched by millions across the globe live on the internet.

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