Monday, September 28, 2009

Water on the Moon: What Does It Mean for the Human Species?

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0120a5f77284970c-500wi


We've found water on the moon! This is one of the most important things ever, it could change the course of the next stage of humanity, and it makes the fact that "Dancing With The Stars" still has fifteen times the Google search volume is almost terminally depressing factor. Until you realize it's just another reason to get off-world as soon as possible.


The extraplanetary oasis-ness was triple-confirmed by Cassini, the Chandrayaan-1 probe, and a few special guest scans by the Deep Impact system on its way to slam into a moving comet - if satellites could be superstars, this would have been a red-carpet event. Each detected the unmistakable spectroscopic signatures of oxygen and hydrogen combinations, meaning that water (H20) or hydroxyl (OH) is definitely up there. Even more interesting it has "weather" variations - more of it near the poles, and it moves around depending on daylight.

This is major moonbase news, as water is the single most difficult component of any manned space mission. The life-giving liquid has a thousand and one applications other than simply "preventing astronauts dying of thirst" - it's just as essential for machinery as for mankind. Air can be compressed, and we require far less food (by volume), so the crippling cost of any off-Earth endeavour is carrying the liquids - fuel and water. The more of either stuff we can find anywhere the better. Plans for lunar living have so far been based on polar craters, where we suspect deposits of ice remain frozen in shadow (and we'll know for sure shortly when the LCROSS mission blows one of them up to check - informative and awesome) and the idea of endless fields of fluid-harvesting are the stuff of science-fiction. Which now happen to be true.

The polar plan won't be changed by the news that there's water all over because it's spread out very thinly - about one kilo of water per tonne of lunar topsoil. But there are many, many tonnes of topsoil, an unimaginable bounty of H20 just waiting to be farmed once we work out how. Mark your calendars: that's when you'll hear the most idiotic conservation protesters ever to exist.

You heard it here first: People will protest our evil mining of a dead dusty rock to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, in fact the actual frontiers of where humans are, and it will be hilarious, and they will fail because the sort of people who grow dreadlocks and protest progress are very rarely in a position to influence the space program. Besides, astronauts have gone far further in the field of water conservation than any whining hippie. When you can piss into a machine, watch it for a while and drink the result you automatically win any environmental argument.

We'd like to conclude our discussion of this breakthrough with one final statement: Water on the moon, for god's sake!

The images above show a very young lunar crater on the side of the moon that faces away from Earth, as viewed by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...