Wet Reason to Return to the Moon
by: Pat Hernandez, November 16, 2009 4:11:47 pm
In an experiment to find water, NASA sent two spacecraft crashing into the lunar surface last month. After one rocket slammed into a crater near the lunar south pole, a spacecraft equipped with cameras recorded the impact. Scientists say it sent a huge plume of material from the bottom of the crater not seen by sunlight for billions of years.
"It was established that there was a large hydrogen content in these permanently shadowed craters on the moon, but it wasn't sure whether hydrogen was due to water or maybe methane or something else."
That's Dr. Alex Ignatiev, professor of physics, chemistry and electrical engineering at the University of Houston. He's the principal investigator on NASA's project to extract water from the poles of the moon.
"The challenge will be of course, that the water that's there is there because it's in these permanently shadowed craters, and these are craters that are down at something like minus 220-degrees below zero centigrade scale, and that means that you've got to be able to get in there into that environment and try to extract that water ice out of that dust that's on the moon and that's gonna be a challenge on how to do that, but there are people looking at how to do that."
He says the water can be used for a variety of things from rocket fuel to sustaining human life. Ignatiev adds a permanent lunar base is needed for a stepping stone for the rest of outer space...like Mars.
"Space is a caustic environment, and we have to be able to learn how to live in that environment and it's easier to learn when you're only a couple of days away than when you're a year away as you would be on Mars."
PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.