Oct 09, 2009
Evidence of water on the moon, Mars alters planning for manned basesBack
San Diego|Space Science Systems|Systems|Water|Greenland|United States|International Space Station|Systems|Ken Edgett|Water|Antarctic
© Reuse this
The surprise with the moon has been that small quantities of water have been detected all over the moon, and not just at the poles.
Three different space probes have confirmed these results, the latest being the Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, which was carrying a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration- (Nasa-) built moon mineralogy mapper (M3).
The M3 detected a small quantity of water all over the moon. Since the mapper could only penetrate the top few millimetres of the moon’s surface, the evidence of water came as a surprise because, until now, the top layer of the moon’s dusty surface was assumed to be bone dry.
The observations of the M3 device were confirmed by previous missions, namely the Cassini, which passed the moon in 1999, and the Deep Impact Spacecraft. The latter is still on its way to its final mission, which is to crash into a comet 103P/Hartley, the target date for the impact being November 2, 2010.
But as the Deep Impact Spacecraft passed the moon, it used its detectors to ‘look’ down on the surface. All three spacecraft confirm the findings.
It is still the case that scientists expect to find quite large amounts of water in the craters at the poles of the moon.
More excitement is only weeks away because two other spacecraft are now on their way to the moon with the specific intent of looking for water. They are Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCRoss impactor, which are going to explore the lunar south pole craters, looking for water ice.
However, the recent find has thrown up other information as well, and that is that the water signature varies, depending on the time of day, being strongest in the early morning and weakest at midday.
This indicates that the water is not static – something happens during a day cycle, and this then provides a mechanism for water to migrate to the poles.
This mechanism would explain why the poles indicate large volumes of water compared with the equator.
So why is this so important? Well, as the old saying goes, water is life.
A major challenge in planning for a manned moon base has been how to supply astronauts with water. Currently, the astronauts in spacecraft, such as the International Space Station (ISS), drink their own urine. Of course, it is recycled back to clean water before they drink it, but water is so valuable that every drop is saved.
Water on the moon in reasonable quanti- ties would be a major factor in being able to build a moon base that is permanently manned, much like the Antarctic research bases of today.
A day after the announcement regarding water on the moon, another water announcement followed – this time, it concerned the planet Mars. Much more water has been found on Mars than previously thought. Another spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has shown clear evidence of huge subsurface ice sheets extending from the poles halfway to the planet’s equator. What is more exciting is that the ice is very pure, being about 99% water. Previously, it was thought that the water would be about half ice and half dirt.
In August 2008, members of the Mars Recon- naissance Orbiter’s team examined images and were surprised to see bright blue mate- rial poking up from the bottom of a crater. It turned out to be ice, but it soon disappeared with the warmth of the sun.
Now the spacecraft has examined the bottoms of five newly formed craters and found a large quantity of ice.
There are clear indications that water once flowed on Mars, so, perhaps, there used to be rivers and lakes there. Ken Edgett, a member of the Space Science Systems team, in San Diego, in the US, has said that they estimate that the total water ice on Mars is equal to the volume of the Greenland ice sheet on earth. That is a lot of water.
Such findings also alter the entire picture for the planning of manned bases on Mars.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
Article contains comments
Updated 3 hours ago The extensive compliance processes instilled to regulate the manufacturing of the set-top boxes (STBs) required for South Africa’s migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) have emerged as a serious weakness as industry gears up for the imminent and...
Updated 3 hours ago Honda has unveiled the newest version of Asimo, its advanced humanoid robot, now featuring the ability to communicate in sign language and climb stairs without stopping. Asimo, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, was first introduced 14 years ago....
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2014: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2014 report provides an overview of the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon steel and stainless...
Projects in Progress 2014 - First Edition (PDF Report)
This publication contains insight into progress at the delayed Medupi and Kusile coal-fired projects, in Mpumalanga and Limpopo respectively, as well as at the Ingula pumped-storage scheme, which is under construction on the border between the Free State and...
Automotive 2014: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
The report provides insight into the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local construction demand, geographic diversification, competition within the sector, corporate activity, skills, safety, environmental considerations and the challenges...
Construction 2014: A review of South Africa's construction sector (PDF Report)
Construction data released during 2013 hints at a halt to the decline in the industry during the last few years, with some commentators averring that the industry could be poised for recovery. However, others have urged caution, noting that the prospects for a...
Electricity 2014: A Review of South Africa's Electricity Sector (PDF Report)
This report provides an overview of the state of electricity generation and transmission in South Africa and examines electricity planning, investment in generation capacity, electricity tariffs, the role of independent power producers and demand-focused initiatives,...
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
This Week's Magazine
The Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL) of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University is strongly reaffirming its position as one of South Africa’s leading centres for satellite technology and expertise. It is currently...
The world’s lowest-cost diesel-electric locomotive is not made in China, but in Pretoria, at RRL Grindrod Locomotives’ newly upgraded 30 000 m2 plant. The company’s locomotive pricing is “more competitive than any other original-equipment manufacturer (OEM)...
The South African Defence Review 2012, released to the public at the end of last month (despite the year given in its title) recommends the creation of the post of Chief Defence Scientist. This official would be responsible for the management of defence technology...
AltX-listed engineering technology company Ansys has been awarded an R188-million contract by Transnet to supply integrated dashboard display systems to the freight rail utility’s locomotives. Black-owned and controlled Ansys developed the bespoke integrated system...
South Africa’s sole nuclear power station Koeberg, which is located in the Western Cape, breached a major operations milestone on April 4, which marked the thirtieth anniversary of Unit 1 having been connected to the grid. Eskom, which operates the two-unit plant,...