Prospector Provides a World of Data
from the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory
(LANL), presenting their latest findings from the Lunar Prospector
mission at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston,
Texas, say Lunar Prospector data has revolutionized our view
of the Moon -- but no one realized how much.
Alamos scientists built three of the five instruments that
were aboard the Lunar Prospector spacecraft, and their studies
include data on Moonquake activity, further confirmation of
the presence of water-ice on the moon, and mapping of iron
and titanium using gamma-rays emitted when cosmic rays slam
into the lunar surface.
(Click image for full size view)
data analyzed from Prospector also provided the first global
elemental lunar study to date. "You can't take samples of
just a few locations on the Moon, like the Apollo missions
did, and say you know the composition of the whole Moon. It
would be like taking a rock from Paris and Los Angeles and
a snap shot of Tokyo and saying you know everything about
Earth's composition. It's like a detective story -- you have
to put all of the pieces of information together to see the
whole picture," said David Lawrence, a Los Alamos researcher.
Spectrometer data, coupled with calculations of sublimation
processes, confirmed previous indications that the hydrogen
in the permanently shaded regions of the lunar poles is in
the form of water ice. Sublimation is the process by which
solids are transformed directly to the vapor state without
passing through the liquid phase. "Sublimation is the only
mechanism that can account for observed differences between
the hydrogen content of sunlit and permanently shaded craters
near lunar poles," according to scientist WilliamFeldman.
the partially sunny regions of the poles the water-ice will
sublimate, whereas in the permanently shaded regions it will
be trapped indefinitely. Hydrogen by itself is not stable
at these temperatures and will only remain if it forms bonds
-- becomes water-ice for example -- so the hydrogen detected
in the permanently shaded regions of the poles must be in
the form of water-ice. It is estimated that each pole may
contain up to one billion tons of frozen water ice spread
throughout the soil.
said, "These data suggest an exciting scenario for lunar colonization.
The polar regions that border the permanently shaded craters
are in sunlight 80-85 percent of the time and would make optimal
space station sites. The stations would have access to the
water-ice and the sunlight would provide solar power. And
by being near the poles you see Earth most of the time, which
means you can communicate."
for the complete press release about LANL's findings.
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