There is plenty of water on the moon, NASA confirms

November 14th, 2009 - 1:21 am ICT by IANS  

ISRO By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 13 (IANS) There is indeed water on the moon - as first indicated by India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan - and plenty of it, US space scientists said Friday on the basis of impacts made by a new satellite.

“Indeed yes, we found water,” Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for US space agency NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, said in a news conference Friday.

The satellite, known as Lcross, slammed into a crater near the Moon’s south pole a month ago. The impact carved out a hole 60- to 100-feet wide and kicked up at least 24 gallons of water.

“We got more than just whiff,” said Peter H. Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator of the mission. “We practically tasted it with the impact.”

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had announced the path-breaking discovery of water on the moon by India’s Chandrayaan-1 on Sep 24 after data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument indicated the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface.

M3 was one of the 11 scientific instruments onboard Chandrayaan that ISRO launched Oct 22, 2008, but the moon mission had to be aborted Aug 30 after Chandrayan lost radio contact with the earth.

The new US Lcross mission consisted of two pieces - an empty rocket stage to carve into the lunar surface and a small spacecraft to measure what was kicked up, but it too slammed into the surface.

The twin impacts in the Cabeus crater Oct 9 created a plume of material from the bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years, NASA said.

The plume travelled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more laterally.

“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbour and, by extension, the solar system,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The moon harbours many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding.”

“We are ecstatic,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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