NASA Probe Discovers Huge Water Reserves On Moon

Scientists have theorized that there might be frozen water on the moon for decades—while water vapor quickly boils away on the moon's surface, frozen water was predicted to exist inside permanently shadowed polar craters as far back as the 1960s. Evidence has mounted for the existence of water in the last 10 years, but new findings from NASA confirm the presence of a whole lot of H2O.

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

"The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon," said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. "The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought."

Photo by Paul Martinez

Effectively tapping into this supply would be essential to the construction of any lunar bases, if and when such colonies are ever launched. In the meantime, the more pertinent question is who owns it. At present, no nation currently claims ownership of any part of the moon; the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 established that the moon would be considered international waters. This may or may not continue to be true now that a valuable resource has been found (albeit not in a very convenient location) on the lunar surface.