Friday, November 13, 2009

Lunar Water: 'We Practically Tasted It'

IR Spectrum From L-CROSS
My post before last turns out to have been premature. I should have known better. Even at the press conference just after impact the L-CROSS team seemed just a bit chipper and smooth, especially for guys whose heavily promo'd sky show had just gone bust. Their media leaks a few days ago were also just a bit coy. (And given the subject, 'leak' is a singularly appropriate term.)

The sky show may have been a bust for the Earth audience, but it was no bust for the instruments aboard the L-CROSS probe, or the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter passing 50 km overhead.

Cutting to the chase, team leader Anthony Colaprete reports that that they found water, and 'We didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount.' In fact, 100 kg of water vapor were detected in the plume. (The illo above is from the Sky & Telescope article, where it is explained.)

Colaprete wouldn't give an estimate for what fraction of the soil that might be, but on the face of it that is quite a lot, and apparently counts only vapor - ice either vaporized by the impact heat, or perhaps sublimating from crystals exposed to space, especially if kicked up high enough to be hit by sunlight.

A brew of other compounds was also detected, one of the inevitable candidates being ethanol. I hope that pans out, if only to see the estimates of how many fifths are locked up in the lunar regolith. However, the first potable moon juice will surely come from a still tucked away in the life support plant.

15 comments:

Citizen Joe said...

Breaking News: Man in Moon is Alcoholic!

Anonymous said...

Nah, he only uses the stuff for medicinal purposes.

Ian_M

Luke said...

"You idiots! We only had 100 kg of water on the moon, and you went and vaporized it!"

Anonymous said...

Bob's Lunar Filling Station and Watering Hole...with real water.

Ferrell

Jean Remy said...

Amusingly, in 1953-1954, Herge had theorized about water ice being locked on the Moon when he wrote the Tintin duology: "Objectif: Lune" and "On A Marche Sur La Lune" (in English: Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon.)

Science is once again lagging behind good old rocketpunk era SF.

So come on, where's my nuclear rocket! Hurry up, science.

Bernita said...

I wonder if this news will inspire a wave of moon based novels.

Anonymous said...

Probably. About a third of them will be riffs on The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, another third will be allegories for the global recession, and the last third will be paeans to whatever technology is currently fashionable. Only a tenth of the total will be readable, and the one by John Barnes will involve sodomy.

Ian_M

Jean Remy said...

*is whisked to the hospital after his spleen exploded from laughter*

Rick said...

Bernita - Wonderful to see you!

As you can see, the comment thread here is not for the faint of heart.

Rick said...

Of course, that 10 percent figure is merely Sturgeon's Law, and applies not only to all SF, but fiction generally.

Anonymous said...

Sturgeon's Law applies to all human works, not just fiction.

Ian_M

Anonymous said...

Ian M-"Sturgeon's Law applies to all human works, not just fiction."

Is that why the history of Human civization has to do with comming up with effective 'Sturgeon Filters'?

Ferrell

Anonymous said...

Yes, but 90% of those filters work about as well as you'd expect...

Ian_M

Jean Remy said...

*returns from the hospital*
*checks the blog posts*
*needs to be rushed back to the hospital*

EastwoodDC said...

Ethanol? That adds a whole new meaning to "moonshine". :-)