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Unstrange Phenomena

22 March 2010

Moon Water: Order Up Your Cocktail Today

An artist's rendering of the Centaur upper stage rocket separating from its shepherding spacecraft, on its way to crashing into the moon's surface, as part of the LCROSS experiment testing for evidence of water ice. (AP Photo/NASA)

From Denny: Last year all of planet Earth was excited we found trace amounts of water on the moon. Visions of future moon colonies danced in our heads. Ever since that discovery, scientists have been pouring over the massive data returned by the probes sent to map the lunar surface. What did they find? There are actually different forms of water compounds on the moon.

Just when you thought water was just water... :) Turns out Moon water comes from different sources which accounts for the varying organic compounds each contains. So, when you next belly up to the bar at your favorite nightspot and order a Moon Cocktail make sure to ask for one of three kinds of Moon Water: "nearly pure ice, a fluffy mix of ice crystals and dirt or a thin layer of water that comes and goes across the surface." When drinking Moon water we have our gourmet choices. Evian and Perrier, move over, because Moon water is coming into the market and onto your grocery store shelves soon.

India's Chandrayaan-1 moon probe found frozen water in 40 craters. It was NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to slam into the moon. Brilliant, huh?! They wanted to test soil content from the resulting impact plume. From the initial impact they found water and hydroxyl - and also tiny bits of pure ice mixed in from the surface layer which is younger ice. Underneath this was a deeper layer of water released which scientists believe to be from a much earlier time period.

What compounds did they find in this ice? According to Paul Spudis, of Houston's Lunar and Planetary Institute, "That water contains more water ice, in addition to a variety of molecular compounds - sulfur dioxide (SO2), methanol (CH3OH), and diacetylene (H2C4). This layer, at least one-half-meter below the surface, is probably older than the ice we're finding on the surface."

Spudis speculates that "some surface water likely comes from bodies that have impacted the moon over the eons - comets, for example, which are primarily ice and that some water might have been formed on the moon. Protons in the solar wind can make small amounts of water continuously on the lunar surface by interacting with metal oxides in the rocks."

While you are waiting at the futuristic space station in your mind for your ride to the new Moon colony, remember that special Moon Cocktail that inspired you to be a space tourist. Just when scientists think they have nailed down what they think something to be, new information comes into their world and now ours to prove them wrong. Have you ever seen so many people so excited to realize there is more beyond their wildest hopes? Stay tuned; there is still more data to be examined and who knows what will turn up next to delight and amaze us.

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