from the water-water-everywhere dept.
The inside of the moon is wetter than previously thought, research suggests, opening up fresh possibilities for manned missions to the lunar landscape.
While the moon was once thought to be bone-dry, in recent years water has been found trapped in lunar volcanic glasses – material formed from magma ejected from the moon's interior. But it has remained a topic of debate just how wet the lunar innards are, with some arguing that the water content of lunar samples may not be representative of the majority of the moon's mantle – the layer beneath the crust.
Now researchers say a new analysis of satellite data has unpicked the puzzle, revealing "hotspots" of trapped water right across the moon's surface in deposits from ancient eruptions. "The lunar mantle is wetter than our previous thoughts [suggested]," said Shuai Li, co-author of the study from Brown University.
Remote detection of widespread indigenous water in lunar pyroclastic deposits (DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2993) (DX) (supplemental)
Here we demonstrate that, for a number of lunar pyroclastic deposits, near-infrared reflectance spectra acquired by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter exhibit absorptions consistent with enhanced OH- and/or H2O-bearing materials. These enhancements suggest a widespread occurrence of water in pyroclastic materials sourced from the deep lunar interior, and thus an indigenous origin. Water abundances of up to 150 ppm are estimated for large pyroclastic deposits, with localized values of about 300 to 400 ppm at potential vent areas. Enhanced water content associated with lunar pyroclastic deposits and the large areal extent, widespread distribution and variable chemistry of these deposits on the lunar surface are consistent with significant water in the bulk lunar mantle. We therefore suggest that water-bearing volcanic glasses from Apollo landing sites are not anomalous, and volatile loss during pyroclastic eruptions may represent a significant pathway for the transport of water to the lunar surface.
India plans to put another orbiter around the Moon and land a rover for just $93 million (including launch costs):
In a large shed near the headquarters of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore, a six-wheeled rover rumbles over dark grey rubble in a landscape designed to mimic the Moon's rocky surface. This test and others scheduled for the next few weeks are crucial steps in India's quest to launch a second mission to the Moon next March.
The country's much anticipated Chandrayaan-2 comes almost a decade after India began its first journey to the Moon, in 2008. "It is logically an extension of the Chandrayaan-1 mission," says Mylswamy Annadurai, director of the project at ISRO. The spacecraft comprises an orbiter that will travel around the Moon, a lander that will touch down in a as-yet undecided location near the Moon's south pole and a rover.
India's maiden Moon trip was a significant achievement for its space programme, but ended prematurely when ISRO lost contact with the orbiter ten months into the planned two-year mission. However, an instrument on a probe that reached the Moon's surface did gather enough data for scientists to confirm the presence of traces of water.
[...] ISRO plans to execute its mission on shoestring budget of just 6.03 billion rupees (US$93 million), including the cost of the rocket and launch. Chandrayaan-2 will be carried into space on one of the agency's three-stage rockets, a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II, taking off from a spaceport on the island of Sriharikota in the Bay of Bengal. "A nice part of the Indian space programme is that they manage to do things so cheaply," says ANU astrobiologist Charles Lineweaver. "If it succeeds, maybe everyone else will see that their mission didn't really need that extra bell or whistle."
The launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018.
Previously: Moon Wetter Than Previously Thought