The Moon may have 100 X more water than expected

The Moon may have 100 X more water than expected

With commentary by Peter Kokh and David Heck

May 26, 2011 – “Researchers have measured for the first time water from the Moon in the form of tiny globules of molten rock, which have turned to glass-like material trapped within crystals.” The data indicates the water content of lunar magma is 100 times higher than previous studies suggested. This magma extruded onto the lunar surface in lava sheets that filled major impact basins, creating the maria or “seas.”

The specific evidence was found in Apollo 17 sample 74220 “orange glass soil” which erupted onto the surface some 3.7 billion years ago. The findings were published in the May 26th issue of Science Express.

The implications are profound. The current theory of the Moon’s formation from the debris of a giant impact of Earth by a “Mars-sized” body – the only way to explain the apparent very low water content of the Moon. But if the Moon’s mantle contains one hundred times as much water as previously thought, then this impact theory loses a major argument. It’s back to the drawing board! This is not a surprise as various other bits of evidence have turned up that do not seem to be explained by the giant impact theory.

Three other theories, “daughter”, “sister”, and “wife” (the Moon was spun off from a bulge in a rapidly spinning Earth; the Moon was formed with Earth in its orbit, the Moon was captured by Earth) all have their serious problems.

If a solution can be found that suggests that the formation of the Moon was by a process that should be fairly common, then the likelihood of other “earthlike” planets having sizable moons goes up. If, as in the giant impact theory, a fluke incident is involved, then our having a fairly large moon involves a high degree of chance. The implications are great for the number of Earth-like planets endowed with a major and close satellite that can serve as a springboard for a technological civilization becoming interplanetary.

If we are honest, and Earth had no major moon, but there were just asteroids and Mars. Our space program might have been delayed for decades and may have remained “unmanned.”  The Moon’s prominence and proximity have played a pivotal role. Such favorable and unfavorable “coincidences” could have much to do with how far a technological civilization advances.

It has been apparent for some time that there are those who “want” or “need” to find that our Earth-Moon system is exceedingly rare or unique, for philosophical or religious reasons, and those who “want” or “need” to find that our Earth-Moon system is fairly common. The truth is probably something in between.

On a more practical and immediate level, if it can be shown that this encapsulated water content, protected from evaporation and/or sublimation, is true of mare basalt in general and not just of isolated violent volcanic episodes as opposed to common lava outflows that created the lavatubes and the lava sheets that layer upon layer created the “seas” or “maria” then, assuming we find a practical way to harvest this captive water content, the nearside maria will look even more attractive as the future major populated areas of the Moon.
The poles, in contrast, will be like Prudhoe Bay – a major pipeline source. [If there are abundant carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide ices as well in these polar cryogenic lodes, it would be simpler to produce methane CH4 instead, and pipe that to settlements elsewhere, then “burn” the methane with local oxygen to produce H2O water and CO2 carbon dioxide.] The point is that a “lunar Prudhoe Bay” is not exactly where we would want to build “a Lunar Los Angeles.”

Why we are so surprised

This tremendous reserve of water is something that we did not expect or suspect as it is not at all obvious from any remote analysis of the Lunar surface which appears to be thoroughly desiccated, moondust and rock and nothing more. This is the ultimate embody-meant of the old proverb, “appearances can be deceiving.”

That is because this water is locked inside “in the form of tiny globules of molten rock, which have turned to glass-like material trapped within crystals.” Had this water not been so “locked up” in this manor, it would long ago have evaporated and or sublimed away into the lunar vacuum, then spread through space by the solar wind.

How can we tap these tremendous reserves?

Now the “64,000 dollar question” is how can we unlock this water in a mass production manner. It will take a lot of experimenting with an appreciable sample collection to work out a practical, energy-efficient way to unlock this reservoir so that it can quench the industrial and agricultural thirst of a number of quickly growing lunar settlements.

We will be watching with interest how this all plays out: just how widespread are these inclusions? And just how did the Moon form? The practical as well as the philosophical implications will be profound.

May 26, 2011 – remember this date! – One thing is for sure. Mars has now lost its major bragging point. The Moon emerges as “clearly, the most logical place to begin off-Earth settlement. The “Human Epic” journey from an African “world” to an “intercontinental world” to an “interplanetary world.”

And Buzz Aldrin’s infamous “been there, done that” is disrobed as one of history’s most superficial statements to date. It is clear, that as to the Moon, we have but scratched the surface. The direction of US space policy needs to be reversed.                    .    PK

Lunar Water Find Analysis
“The Moon might have as much water as 315 Lake Superiors”

By David Heck –
Boeing St Louis, Moon Society St. Louis

“What was recently thought to be billions of gallons on the Moon based on the October 9, 2009 LCROSS Lunar Impact at the south polar Cabeus crater, is now thought to be Billions of Cabeus’s (=1E18 gallons, which I believe is quintillion (mill, bill, trill, quad, quint)

Lake Superior (largest fresh water lake in the world in surface area) – [Siberia’s Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water reserve in volume] is 12,000 km3 of water, which is: 3,170,064,628,300,000 gallons (3.1E15). I did NOT do the math. I used on-line conversion.

That would mean the Moon might have as much water as 315 Lake Superiors.
Each Shuttle launch uses 146,181.8 of LOX, and 395,581.9 of LH2 ~ 540,000 gallons.
1E18 gallons of water is about 1.85 TRILLION Space Shuttle External Tanks!!       DH