ice skating on moon unlikely

To the disappointment of future lunar colonists everywhere, the moon may have much less water than previously thought. Observations from NASA’s Lunar Prospector orbiter a few years back had fueled hopes that thick layers of ice, which could have been mined for water, existed in deep, sunless craters at the moon’s frigid poles. A new study, however, suggests their existence is unlikely. Bruce Campbell of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies and colleagues used the huge radar telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory to probe deeper into the polar craters than ever before, and report in the Nov. 13 Nature that they did not come up with the telltale signature for thick ice deposits. They write, “Any lunar ice present within regions visible to the Arecibo radar must therefore be in the form of distributed grains or thin layers,” which would make extracting water and establishing a permanent base a much harder proposition than once hoped.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 11/18/2003.
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