Spacecraft that crashed into the moon last month kicked up a relatively small plume. But scientists have confirmed the debris contained water — 25 gallons of it — making lunar exploration exciting again.
The lunar dud for space enthusiasts has become a watershed event for NASA.
Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. So the thrilling discovery announced Friday sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.
“We found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, told reporters as he held up a white water bucket for emphasis.
He said the 25 gallons of water the lunar crash kicked up was only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact.
NASA Announces Discovery Of Lunar Ice Field Nov 13 2009
Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California:
Scientists have long suspected that permanently shadowed craters at the south pole of the moon could be cold enough to sustain water frozen at the surface and have been analyzing a mile-high plume of debris kicked up by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.
(Water has already been detected on the moon by a NASA-built instrument on board India’s now defunct Chandrayaan-1 probe and other spacecraft, though it was in very small amounts and bound to the dirt and dust of the lunar surface)
NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 for extended missions on the lunar surface.
Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit, we found a significant amount