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 (150 word limit)
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
Article contains comments
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
This Week's Magazine
Integrated energy and chemical company Sasol has partnered with Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) professor and founder and CEO of PanAvest Partnership Dr Douglas Boateng to publish a series of books on executive supply chain management aimed at...
The World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF’s) 2014 Living Planet Index (LPI) indicates that there has been a 52% decline in vertebrate species since 1970. The Index tracked the trends of 10 000 discrete populations of over 3000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2010.
Rwanda has joined a number of East African countries seeking to import electricity from Ethiopia as its demand grows. After it became apparent several generation project it is implementing will not come on stream early enough, now plans to import 400 MW from Ethiopia...
Metrorail’s first new passenger train will arrive in November next year, says Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) CEO Lucky Montana. “Next year we will be able to put our hands around the infrastructure and equipment we have been talking about for so long.”
The Competition Commission has launched an investigation into what it says are “price fixing, market division and collusive tendering in the market for the manufacture and supply of automotive components to original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs, or vehicle...