In one of the most amazing lunar discoveries in many years a NASA probe that crashed into the lunar surface has churned up unexpectedly higher concentrations of silver and mercury than had previously been thought to exist.
The surprising find hints at out how water may have arrived on the moon and why it become concentrated at the poles, astronomers say.
When impactors strike the lunar surface, the moon’s easily vaporized metals, such as mercury and silver, tend to migrate—atom by atom—toward the cooler poles, much as water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere condenses on cold surfaces.
Water and other volatile compounds brought in by asteroids and comets would similarly experience this “cold sink” effect.
And about that water -the mission found a lot of it.
For the LCROSS mission, NASA directed an empty Centaur rocket to smash into a permanently shadowed region of the southern crater. The spacecraft that delivered the rocket recorded the entire event before it was then sent crashing into the moon.
The rocket crash alone gouged a new crater within Cabeus that measures up to 100 feet (30 meters) across.
The impact also sent up to 13,000 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of lunar dust, vapor, and other debris hurtling into space.
In a new paper analyzing this ejecta, LCROSS principal investigator Anthony Colaprete calculates that about 342 pounds (155 kilograms) of water vapor and ice were expelled during the rocket impact
My take on these discoveries range from fascination to awe with a jaw-drop in between. This one mission has reignited the discussion about the creation of a moon base either for colonization purposes or for a stopover point for deep-space missions. While current budgetary concerns will surely call for deep cuts in everything I implore the powers that be to reevaluate the space program and find ways to keep it funded, or increase it if possible. NASA is proving that there is still much to learn about our closest neighbor in space.