Wa­ter find on moon boosts hope for lu­nar base

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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