Water find on moon boosts hope for lunar base
WASHINGTON: A “significant amount” of frozen water has been found on the moon, the US space agency said yesterday, heralding a major leap forward in space exploration and boosting hopes of a permanent lunar base.
Evidence of water had been found in a permanently shadowed lunar crater, said Nasa.
“The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon,” Nasa added, as ecstatic scientists celebrated the landmark discovery.
The data was found after Nasa sent two spacecraft crashing into the lunar surface last month in a dramatic experiment to probe the moon for water.
One rocket slammed into the Cabeus crater, near the lunar southern pole.
The impact sent a huge plume billowing up from the bottom of the crater, which has not seen sunlight for billions of years.
The rocket was followed four minutes later by a spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the impact.
“We are ecstatic,” said Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the $79 million LCROSS mission.
Scientists had previously theo- rised that, except for the possibility of ice at the bottom of craters, the moon was totally dry.
Finding water on the moon is a major breakthrough for space exploration.
“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbour and, by extension, the solar system,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at Nasa.
Only 12 men, all of them Amer- icans, have walked on the moon, and the last to set foot there were in 1972.
But Nasa’s plans to put US astronauts back on the moon by 2020 to establish manned lunar bases are increasingly in doubt.
A key review panel appointed by President Barack Obama said existing budgets are not large enough to fund a return mission before 2020. – Sapa-AFP