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Potentially Icy Northern Crater Mapped By LRO July 7, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in lunar mining, lunar North Pole, lunar polar regions, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, lunar water, NASA, Rozhdestvenskiy, water.
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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has mapped for the first time in high resolution a crater of interest for potential ice deposits.

A permanently-shadowed crater within the larger, northern Rozhdestvenskiy, the LRO’s advanced Mini-RF imaging technology was able to bring out the Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) of the crater and its surroundings. A stark contrast between the two suggests thick deposits of ice, as were shown generally to exist around the north pole earlier this year.

You better get used to ‘Rozhdestvenskiy’, as deposits will surely make this an icy hotspot for future lunar missions and subsequent (lucrative) mining efforts.

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Moon’s Interior Has 100 Times More Water Than Previously Thought? June 14, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, water.
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Space.com has reported that a new study has shown that the Moon’s interior may have 100 times more water than previously thought.

The study of volcanic glass beads found during Apollo suggests that the minimum level of hydroxl—a minor element found throughout the moon—is much higher than estimated when it was first detected in 2008.

“It is gratifying to see this proof of the hydroxyl contents in lunar apatite. The concentrations are very low and, accordingly, they have been until recently nearly impossible to detect. We can now finally begin to consider the implications – and the origin – of water in the interior of the moon.” – Washington University lunar scientist Bradley Jolliff, “Research Suggests Water Content Of Moon Interior Underestimated”, NASA

While this isn’t quite as epic as other recent discoveries of water on the Moon, it’s yet another drop in the bucket towards illustrating that the Moon is not the bone-dry place it was once thought to be—and another hint that we’ve just barely begun to understand what secrets (and benefits) the Moon may hold :)

Check out the Space.com article for more of the geologic details on hydroxl and the source of this water!

Tons Of Water Ice Found at Lunar North Pole! March 1, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Chandrayaan, Chandrayaan-1, NASA, Odyssey Moon, Polar ice, water.
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NASA’s Mini-RF instrument on India’s Chandryaan-1 orbiter has revealed, like the LCROSS ‘moon bombing’ and NASA’s other Chandrayaan probe (the M3before it, evidence of water on the moon.

This time, it’s at least 600 million metric tons (!!) of ice deposits in craters at the lunar north pole—an enormous number! By comparison, the LCROSS impact turned up about 100kg of water (~22 gallons). Essentially this means that like Cabeus in the South, the ‘40 or more‘ permanently-shadowed craters investigated at the lunar north pole harbor that kind of ice.

“The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought.”- Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (and chief lunar scientist of Google Lunar X PRIZE team Odyssey Moon); “Tons of Water Ice Found on the Moon’s North Pole”, Space.com

This should mean that the North Pole—and any permanently-shadowed crater—should have any lunar prospectors (human, robotic, or otherwise) salivating.

Santa (as reported by Apollo 8) better like company… :)

LCROSS Impact Results–Water Was Found! November 14, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, Polar ice, private sector, water.
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NASA has released the preliminary results from the LCROSS “moon bombing” impact, and the news is that water has indeed been found!

“‘Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water.'” –Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist

With mission accomplished, and a big new financial motivator for companies (water) having been confirmed several times over, things are really beginning to heat up for NASA and the private sector (the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, matched by NASA for a $60 million total? Drool…)

“Moon Bombing” Plume Spotted; LCROSS Team “Blown Away” by Data October 17, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Cabeus, LCROSS, NASA, Polar ice, water.
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NASA has announced that an alternate camera from the LCROSS caught an image of the plume from NASA’s recent “moon bombing”—and that good data was returned from the mission:

“We are blown away by the data returned…the team is working hard on the analysis and the data appear to be of very high quality.”- Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist, “NASA’S LCROSS Captures All Phases of Centaur Impact”

In fact, all three phases of the impact–the impact flash, the plume, and the creation of the Centaur’s crater—wer captured, though the expcted 12-mile-high plume ended up only being one mile high. Still, besides a lack of on-the-moment drama, it appears everything with the mission was a ‘smashing success’, and it should be exciting to see the data that unfolds in the next few weeks…

For more impact images, check out the press release and NASA’s gallery! :)

NASA’s “Moon Bombing” For Water Ice Tonight—A Quick Explanation October 8, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, Obama, private sector, water.
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NASA’s surprisingly controversial “moon bombing” with the LCROSS craft is set for tonight, at 4:30am!

A lot of people (and I mean a lot–Twitter has been on fire , 38 Tweets on it in past ~30 seconds) are wondering why NASA’s doing this, and some are expressing levels of outrage.

A quick explanation: Water ice is important to moon colonies (and beyond—the oxygen and hydrogen can be used to make rocket propellant, which is incredibly expensive to launch off of Earth; and thus, the Moon could be a cost-effective ‘gas station’ for Mars and beyond), and this event tonight is a key study to whether it exists in shadowed craters sensors can’t see into.  (See this great article from Universe Today for more on why water on the Moon is valuable.)

The LCROSS will drop it’s spent Centaur rocket (non-explosive, basically a large piece of metal) into the Cabeus A crater, and the LCROSS itself will follow into the crater, taking readings as it goes (and eventually impacts the same location).

The $79 million spent on the mission could pay itself back for the U.S.—private space development is a rapidly growing industry, one that Obama has suggested could be valuable to an economic turnaround. Companies are already set for a variety of commercial applications (including an extremely promising alternative energy, as explained there by Apollo 17 astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt) , but the presence of valuable water ice gives them another lucrative motivation.

This will be a historic event—the mainstream-public attention alone has guaranteed that, and the successful discovery of water ice will be yet another spur to an already charging “base race” back to the Moon  (for resources, this time) :)

You can watch the impact live on NASA TV at 4:30am PST (and there’s even a free watching event at OMSI here in Portland, OR.)

LCROSS Has New Crater in Crosshairs for Impact September 30, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Cabeus, LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, water.
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Google Moon image of Cabeus and the South Pole

NASA announced on Monday that the LCROSS‘ hairs have picked a new target for its Oct. 9th impact: the larger Cabeus crater instead of Cabeus A.

As you can see in the Google Moon image above, Cabeus is both near the south pole and deeply shadowed—increasing the chance for hidden water ice that the LCROSS’ moon-bombing (using one of its spent rockets) hopes to stir up.

The impact is occurring at 4:30am PST Friday, Oct. 9th—with viewing events you can join, including one here in Portland, OR at OMSI. (I’d go, but I’ll actually be at work…full-time graveyard shift :) ).

Keep your crosshairs targeted here for coverage of the impact and its results :)

It’s Official: NASA Reveals Water Discovered on the Moon! September 24, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Chandrayaan-1, NASA, water.
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As rumored, NASA announced today that three different spacecraft have detected water molecules on the Moon (the first-ever confirmation!).

NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument on board India’s Chandrayaan-1 made the discovery, assisted in confirmation by the Cassini and Epoxi spacecrafts. The water and hydroxyl-bearing materials were found in a relatively young polar crater that faces away from Earth. The results were analyzed by scientists working at Brown University (in Providence, Rhode Island—a state I hold dear to my heart :) ).

Check out the press release for all the initial background and details :)

Fun fact: NASA originally got a hint of this water evidence back in 1999, on Cassini’s first pass, but did not publish those results until confirmation now.

Rumors: NASA/ISRO Have Discovered Evidence of Lots of Water (!), Press Conference Thursday September 21, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Chandrayaan-1, water.
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NASA Watch reports rumors abound that NASA’s M3 Mineralogy Mapper on board India’s concluded Chandrayaan-1mission has turned up evidence that there is not just water ice on the Moon, but lots of it!

NASA has a press conference set for Thursday at 2pm. NASA also alluded to potential water ice results in their press release from the other day on the beginning of the LRO’s mapping, so stay tuned, NASA might be on to something, and on it fierce…

Waste of Space: A Look at Trash Drying and Water Extraction November 19, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in trash, Waste of Space, water.
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There’s an article from the Cornell Chronicle over at SpaceRef.com about a subject that I see potentially balooning into one of the most problematic and important subjects of moon colonization: dealing with waste. So, welcome to the first edition of a new semi-regular feature series you’ll be seeing here: Waste of Space.

The Cornell article is a feature on a device that by drying, extracts all the water from the astronauts’ trash, thereby both avoiding a lot of trashy problems (stink, trash expansion after rot, etc.) and generating one of the most precious resources in space (by way of a water purifier).

An About.com article puts it best regarding the importance of water recycling to missions:

“Would Columbus have reached the New World if his ships could not carry enough water for their crews? Would Lewis and Clark have made it to the Pacific if they had no fresh water along the way?
-“NASA Advances Water Recycling for Space Travel and Earth Use“, by Nick Greene, About.com

Water is expensive to shuttle back and forth from space stations, nevermind all the way to the Moon, so any conservation and recycling you can get is golden.

The other aspect, and the one I see becoming of particular interest as lunar colonies (and especially, lunar mining operations) become more and more numerous, is dealing with waste disposal (or lack thereof) and reducing its bulk.

“In space, waste can’t simply be “thrown out.” If astronauts place it outside the airlock, it will orbit alongside their spacecraft. If they eject it away from the spacecraft, they might encounter it again later.”
-“What to do with rotten, smelly garbage when the nearest dumpster is 100 million miles away“, by Melissa Rice, the Cornell Chronicle

As that above picture from the Int’l Space Station demonstrates, trash buildup can get pretty bad in human space habitats (sometimes with spectacularly disastrous results), so this drying technology (being developed by Cornell professor Jean Hunter and the Wisconsin-based Orbital Technologies Corp.) will obviously be invaluable.

I could go on for some length about the severe problems a lot of trash generation from lunar colonies could create, but for now, I’ll leave that for future editions of Waste of Space.

Today, I close out with a golden quote by Jean Hunter, from the Cornell article:

“When people think about garbage in space, they remember the trash compactor scene from “Star Wars” — and believe it or not, there’s some truth to that scene,” Hunter said. “Trash in space is like you saw in the movie: big, wet, nasty and varied”.

:)