Manned lunar space station now closer to reality

July 22nd, 2010 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 22 (IANS) Hopes of building a manned lunar space station have moved a step closer after scientists discovered water is widespread on the moon.
It is abundant both on the inside and outside of the earth’s satellite - improving the chances of establishing a long-term presence, experts claim.

The discovery was made after US researchers examined a basalt rock underlying the moon’s surface that was formed by lava flows billions of years ago and brought back to earth by the 1971 Apollo 14 mission, reports The Telegraph.

The scientists found evidence of hydroxide ions - negatively charged molecules identical to those of water but missing one hydrogen atom.

Using a state-of-the-art scanning method known as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) they found hydrogen in the form of hydroxide - a close chemical relative of water - in a mineral called apatite.

George Rossman, professor at the California Institute of Technology, said: “If you heat up the apatite, the hydroxyl ions will decompose and come out as water.”

The team, whose findings are published in the journal Nature, said this provides “robust evidence for the presence of water in the interior of the moon from where some lunar rocks were derived”.

Ubiquitous water on the moon could mean a human settlement on the moon is not so far-fetched. Currently the endeavour would be very expensive - it costs around 16,500 pounds to take just 473 grams of water from earth to the moon.

But if scientists devise processes to easily recover this water from the lunar rocks for drinking water and fuel, a human settlement won’t be out of reach.

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