Water on the Moon

Water on the Moon

Man’s thirst for knowledge led the scientists of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration to ask the question: If we smash a big, heavy object into the Moon, will we find water? The answer: Oh boy! Let’s try!

On October 9th, a bus-sized Centaur booster rocket smacked into a lunar crater at 6.000 miles per hour, sending up a mile-high plume of dust, vapor, and moon-dirt. Yeah! Then the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) analyzed the dirt and vapor, looking for ice cubes before it smacked down. Wow! Man! Worth every penny of the $79 million cost.

So where’s the water? NASA has the data, recorded by nine instruments; they’re working on it. There’s water on the Moon somewhere. India’s Chandrayaan lunar probe just confirmed that. There’s just no dramatic underground lake or anything.

Too bad. Our spy at NASA told us the agency hopes to recoup the mission cost by developing lunar water products (in mission-safe plastic bottles) for prestige retailers. Scientists even have a marketing campaign. Everything is ready.

Everything but the water.


Image by Mike Licht (who actually appreciates NASA’s unmanned programs). Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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19 Responses to “Water on the Moon”

  1. stephen mann Says:

    I think if there is water there, it would be thick sludge deep down, or a type of clay contaminated, i think you would have to set up huge domes to grow in every were on the moon, to provide our own water and soil, but would be a long time before removing the domes, the domes would have to have a relieve valve every 2 hours to play games with the atmosphere, maybe to start with a special hard core weed, hard to kill, and specially trained here on earth before its journey, then again we,v got to get there first, with a live man at the other end, just to prove it can be done , with no acting here on earth, taking water up there would in my thought have to be thick jelly type water, or maybe stalled in hardcore plants, i recon 200 years to achieve less the domes. two thirds of the moon.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    stephen mann wrote: if there is water there, it would be thick sludge deep down, or a type of clay ….

    From all accounts, the water seems to be an evenly-distributed dampness in the lunar shade spots. It has to be cooked out.

    we’ve got to get there first, with a live man at the other end, just to prove it can be done

    Sadly, an accurate description of the manned space program — a stunt, done for national prestige. Unmanned probes yield much more scientific data.

  3. futurepredictions Says:

    What do I know, I just report it….


  4. ben Says:

    The idea of water on the Moon will eventually be to help with travel to Mars. Bringing enough fuel to make it to Mars and back out of the Earth would be extremely difficult; they would need to launch several (probably around 10) unmanned rockets that are just huge ships of fuel, to meet up with in orbit. There is a posibility of instead bring machines that could use solar energy to convert ice from the Moon into hydrogen and oxygen, which could then be used to continue onto Mars. This is one of the possiblities if there is a lot of ice on the Moon.

  5. Mike Licht Says:

    ben: What you describe is a huge diversion of funds and engineering capability in pursuit of the national prestige presumably associated with the stunt of putting the first humans on Mars.

    If an equal amount of effort were put into unmanned space exploration, who knows what we might find? After all, that is the kind of project that found signs of lunar water in the first place.

  6. Josh Says:

    Oh screw you and your “unmanned exploration” BS. If we don’t do it, some other country will. This isn’t about “prestige”, it’s about securing access to incredibly valuable resources first. Securing access means people with a sustained infrastructure, not robots. The moon also happens to contain a high concentration of Helium 3 Isotope, there is less than 100kg total of this isotope on Earth, and it just so happens that this Isotope is critical for any foreseeable cheap nuclear fusion. The value of that isotope is like finding QUADRILLIONS of barrels of oil on the moon.



  8. lifesnapshotz Says:

    Clever! Here are some more links.

    Check out:


  9. Mike Licht Says:


    The Moon contains more He-3 that Earth, but still not a lot. Extraction will take increasingly greater efforts each year, and it may not be feasible to collect three shuttle loads even in early years. Scaling up experimental fusion experiments presents greater engineering challenges than you imply. The universe is full of He-3 and other potential energy sources; diverting funds from unmanned space exploration means acting in ignorance of them.

  10. Cosimo Says:

    Josh works for NASA! By golleeeee

  11. Mike Licht Says:

    Cosimo Says: Josh works for NASA!

    In the PR department, no doubt.

  12. A. C. McGuire Says:

    While unmanned probes definitely need to take priority right now, the purpose of manned exploration goes beyond data gathering. It is a statistical certainty that Earth will eventually become uninhabitable. If we don’t screw it up ourselves, something else *will* happen sooner or later. Think “Chicxulub II.”

    By the time we reach that point, some of the population must be living off world. While the impact event of 65 million years ago did not kill all life on Earth, it definitely did a number on it. Even if our species survived a repeat, we’d be back in the Stone Age — to say the least.

    The current difficulty in detecting inbound impactors means we cannot really be prepared for it. And even if we see one coming, there is no guarantee that we could do much more than watch it hit.

    Granted, it could easily be another 65 million years before such a thing happens. Or it could happen before I finish this sentence. But the urgency lies not in how soon something bad happens. Rather it is in how long it will take us to be able to live elsewhere. I suspect we’re looking at a minimum of a century to develop the technology necessary to establish a viable, self-sustaining colony on some place like Mars. And that’s if we get off our butts and get with it now.

    We need to work *towards* migration into space — not try to accomplish it today.

  13. Cindy Hanson Says:

    How about, “because we can.”

  14. Mike Licht Says:

    Cindy Hanson wrote: How about, “because we can.”

    That would be fine, except for the opportunity cost. And here that means NASA stripping funds from scientifically-productive projects to pay for the stunts of the Manned Space Program.

  15. Cindy Hanson Says:

    hmmm…. I like the term opportunity cost.

    when it was discovered that oil could be used productively and became a high priced commodity, how much opportunity cost was spent on drilling before better, cheaper and and more effective ways to find oil were found?

    Mankind will indeed one day need a supply of fresh drinking water, right here on earth. This fact has been established and to be honest, I’m glad we’re thinking a little out of the box.

    I know the ‘establishment’ reasons are to ‘build a station on the moon’ but the most practical reasons for new developements rarely were the original intent. We are fast approaching a drinkable water crisis for mankind as a whole, it’s only fitting that we be the ones to solve the problem. Because, simply, we are who we are.

  16. Mike Licht Says:

    Cindy wrote:

    when it was discovered that oil could be used productively and became a high priced commodity, how much opportunity cost was spent on drilling before better, cheaper and and more effective ways to find oil were found?

    Oh, so Exxon will foot the bill for this, not NASA? Great. NASA can stop wasting effort on engineering stunts and get on with scientific research and exploration.

    Mankind will indeed one day need a supply of fresh drinking water, right here on earth.

    Just a minute here. You honestly think we’re going to solve Earth’s water problems by importing Moon water? Really now, get a grip.

  17. jaynarayan Says:

    Misdirected Science: Better than conducting research on foreign planet just for human existence is to do some valuable research work at this earth planet itself. Many problems which are responsible for human suffering at this earth could be targeted for better society. Better search the water at desert places in earth instead of searching at moon in the spend of huge amount of civilian’s money. Better make the networks of river so that equal distribution of water at earth planet is possible. Make the river more deeper so that the flood problem, water crises, and power problem can be solved easily. If the half of the money spent for moon mission can be utilised in this direction the whole problems of day to day to need will be solved easily.

    “Moon mission should be condemned when there is so many problem to be solved in this earth planet”

    Note: same post also appered at “Scietific American”

  18. conor Says:

    I think it’s pretty naive to believe whatever NASA tells us is everything they know up to this point in time. Farooq Al-Baaz, a geologist who worked with NASA on planning the APOLLO missions, has publicly stated “Not every discovery has been announced.” Isn’t this obvious? More than a few of the astronauts from the GEMINI and APOLLO missions have reported seeing 1,500 ft tall domes, lakes, spacecrafts etc on the moon. It’s safe to assume we’ve known there was water on the moon since the 50’s, maybe sooner, so why are they deciding to tell us this now? The real question is why haven’t we (supposedly) put a man on the moon since ’73? I think the 2 most likely answers are 1. we got kicked off by moon tenants, 2. we have been back to the moon and were not told about it.

  19. Mike Licht Says:

    I thank we can safely assume all fringes — I mean, all sides of the issue — have been explored here, by humans and telemetry.

    Ladies, gentlemen and space aliens, thank you very much. Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.

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