Monday, September 28, 2009

Water, water

Well, now it’s official. There really is water on the moon.

Needless to say, you haven’t been able to go far without hearing the news practically being trumpeted from the rooftops, the most recent confirmation coming from India’s contribution to lunar exploration Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 and NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3 ("M-cubed").

Of course, this isn’t the first time the presence of water has been detected. In fact, space scientists have been studying the moon for years and finding evidence for water. The difference is, however, that this is the first time NASA has stated definitively that there was, in fact, water in one of the otherwise driest places of the solar system.

However, we’re not going to see astronauts doing the backstroke in the Sea of Tranquility anytime soon. We’re not talking that much water. In fact, according to NASA, if one could wring all the water out of a ton of moondust, you’d get 32 whole ounces. Thirst quenching yes, but a lot of work. And there are areas of the moon where it is more prevalent such as the moon’s polar regions. Again, it’s not terribly surprising since radar studies and other probes such as Lunar Prospector have seen hints of the water.

If it shows anything, however, its that our solar system is one wet place. Water seems to be everywhere. Earth, Mars, the moon, several moons in the outer solar system including a couple that shows indications of possible liquid water. And liquid water is absolutely essential as a solvent for the chemicals of life.

It’s also important for where it figures in the manned exploration of space. And that’s pretty much everything from something to drink to making rocket fuel.

So now there is the confirmed existence of water on the moon which makes it, not only a great place to visit, but maybe even stay awhile. Perhaps now that they know they’ll be able to take a shower, perhaps we’ll be astronauts going to the moon and staying.

Clear skies!

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