It's official: Nasa has declared our moon ‘alive’. Thanks to the Lcross impact satellite last month, results now pouring in have detected ‘significant’ amounts of water in a crater at the moon's South Pole. This is a major discovery that will dramatically alter how we view the moon as a barren world. In turn, it makes it a more viable option as an off world outpost for interplanetary travel.
“Indeed yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for Nasa’s Lcross, in a news conference.
On October 9 this year, the Lcross disengaged from a large bus-sized section which eventually crashed in Cabeus, a crater 60 miles wide and two miles deep, located near the South Pole of the moon. At that exact moment of impact, Lcross was tuned to the location. Not only was it looking, it was also sensing and it picked up a plume—elements of the surface expunged upwards from the impact.
However, the satellite was not tuned properly to pick up the photograph. But what Lcross did do was sense water. An analysis of slight shifts in colour after the impact illuminated water molecules emerging from the impact crater. These water molecules, hydroxyls, absorbed specific colours of light which emerged as specific wavelengths.
Scientists also saw colours of ultraviolet light associated with molecules of hydroxyl, consisting of one hydrogen and one oxygen molecule, presumably water molecules that had broken apart by the impact and then glowed like neon signs.
This becomes an exciting discovery for the scientists who have always theorised that water would be present below the moon’s surface, in craters located in the South Pole which is not exposed to a lot of sun rays or any sun rays at all. In addition to the water molecules, there were spikes in the data indicating the possibility of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane or more complex carbon-based molecules. But these readings take a backseat compared to the discovery of water.
The possibilities by which the water can be harnessed are actually plentiful, and the news of such information gives hope to some of us, while it makes for an interesting business opportunity for others.
Ever since man first landed on the moon, mankind has envisioned a home for itself there. Moreover, some have even ventured to turn that vision into a business proposition. Lunar real estate has slowly seen an increase in popularity. Thanks to the worldwide web, thousands of websites have cropped up, apparently selling land on the moon, Mars and even Venus. These are all, of course, bogus sites. Nevertheless, people have shown great interest, some so far as purchasing land on the moon and obtaining a certificate from these bogus sites.
However, the only authority on the moon, which is recognised officially by all states around the world, is the United Nation. In the "1979 United Nations moon treaty" which was discussed during the 89th plenary meeting, on December 5, 1979, the treaty states, "... to promote on the basis of equality the further development of co-operation among states in the exploration and use of the moon and other celestial bodies,". It further states under Article 3 that, "The moon shall be used by all States Parties exclusively for peaceful purposes."
The treary continues in Article 4 that, “the exploration and use of the moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development. Due regard shall be paid to the interests of present and future generations as well as to the need to promote higher standards of living and conditions of economic and social progress and development in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations."
All these points and more, make it absolutely clear that the moon does indeed belong to the humans, but they should learn to use it wisely and within cooperation.
When Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon was about to leave, his last words foretold of this time when man's destiny to return to the moon is about to be realised: "As we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."
Originally published here.