Anthony Colaprete: Bombarding moon confirmed water ice

NASA lunar scientist Anthony Colaprete is principal investigator of the LCROSS mission that impacted the moon. One of the most fundamental discoveries, he said, was the discovery of water ice.

Anthony Colaprete: It’s been a very active year for new information, new discoveries, in understanding water on the moon.

NASA lunar scientist Anthony Colaprete is principal investigator of the LCROSS mission. In late 2009 it impacted the moon. Dr. Colaprete led scientists in analyzing the debris that was kicked up. One of the most fundamental discoveries, said Coleprete, was the discovery of water ice.

Anthony Colaprete: We’re very satisfied that we’ve made a strong detection of water ice, which is really exciting, because it says something about the concentrations within the crater. You need to have certain concentrations of molecules before you actually get crystalline water ice to form. And that’s what we think we’ve seen.

Now that water ice has been found on the moon, Colaprete said the next step beyond LCROSS is to better determine how much water there is and where its found.

Anthony Colaprete: We’re not stopping here. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, in orbit around the moon now, it is going to move to a science mission directorate phase of its mission.

Colprete explained that instruments on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be mapping the moon with a focus on sites of lunar water, estimated at over 100 billion gallons. Dr. Colaprete said that by 2013, four other orbital missions will be studying the moon.

Anthony Colaprete: So the exploration is certainly going to continue. And the science is going to continue.

Dr. Colaprete spoke more about the main findings of the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission, or LCROSS mission.

Anthony Colaprete: Last November we reported water. We didn’t necessarily distinguish between water ice and water vapor. But now we’re very satisfied that we’ve made a strong detection of water ice, which is really exciting, because it says something about the concentrations within the crater. You need to have certain concentrations of molecules before you actually get crystalline water ice to form. And that’s what we think we’ve seen. So that is one of the most fundamental discoveries, that there’s water ice. The other thing I think I can say is, the amount of water we see in terms of the fraction of the dirt moved that’s there seems to suggest that to be consistent with other data sets, namely the neutron data set, that indicates that the water is distributed non-uniformly. That it’s in pockets.

The questions going forward about water on the moon, said, Colaprete, are on its amount and distribution.

Anthony Colaprete: It’s been a very active year for new information, new discoveries, in understanding water on the moon. And I think we have as many questions as we started out with, which is always a good indication that you’re doing the right science, more questions than answers.

Jorge Salazar