Astronomers Find Moon Lacks Ice
–Washington – 19 October 2006
The latest effort by astronomers to seek water on the moon has dampened hopes that it has much, if any, with which to establish a lunar colony. A moon base is a long-term goal of the
U.S. space program as a departure point for human missions deeper into space.
The moon appears barren and dry, but an early suggestion that it might have water came from a
U.S. satellite mapping it in 1996. The satellite sent radar waves to a lunar south pole crater that is in permanent darkness. The return signal was characteristic of the way the waves would bounce off water molecules in ice.Two years later in 1998, another
U.S. satellite using different technology detected a component of water – hydrogen atoms – being displaced from the moon’s surface by gamma ray bombardment from space. Researchers speculated that the hydrogen could be coming from ice deposits one meter below crater floors at both lunar poles.But a new study using a huge radar dish in Arecibo,
Puerto Rico suggests that if there is any water on the moon, the amount is insignificant.
A team including Bruce Campbell of the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington says the results imply that ice is likely to be present only as grains embedded in rock.
“People have suggested that if there were ice in thick slabs, then perhaps future lunar exploration would be made easier by going to those areas and using that as a resource,”
Campbell said. “The results that we obtained are not very helpful for that.