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Thick ice on the moon

Last summer, when NOVA scienceNOW ran a segment on LCROSS (the "Moon Smasher" spacecraft) and its search for lunar water, the LCROSS scientists didn't know what they might find: All the evidence from Apollo suggested that the moon was a bone-dry wasteland. But in a matter of months, that picture changed dramatically.

In September, scientists announced that three spacecraft had independently detected traces of water ice speckling the lunar surface. LCROSS added its assent in November, when its science team announced that the little spacecraft's crash landing had blasted about twenty-four gallons worth of water-ice out of a crater near the moon's south pole.

And now, things are getting even wetter: Sheets of ice, up to 10 feet thick, may be coating the depths of shadowed craters near the Moon's north pole. The total haul: at least 600 million tons of ice.

That's the word from the Indian Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, one of the trio of probes that made the first discovery of lunar water. Chandrayaan measured the ice using its onboard radar. The science team's best guess is that the ice was dumped on the moon by asteroid or comet impacts. Because the north-pole craters don't get any sunlight, the ice would stick around indefinitely.

User Comments:

Does NASA have plans for a lunar base?

Wouldn't the lunar ice sublimate and disappear?

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