Friday, April 15, 2005

Luna's Lakefront Property Mapped At Poles?

Click here to see an article from NASA about the discovery of high concentrations of hydrogen at the Lunar polar regions. The hydrogen is believed to be water ice mixed in surface regolith. Embedded in the article is a link (here) to another article that explains in more detail how the hydrogen was measured and that also includes some pretty cool diagrams.

Compared to the rest of the moon, the region where water might exist is pretty small. On the whole the moon is a pretty dry place. For the sci-fi trained among us, think Arrakis but with regolith instead of sand. The Dune analogy holds up because in that novel the wet region of Arrakis was at the pole as well. Perhaps the first lunar city could be called Arrakeen.

But I digress. So back to something closer to reality.

This link (here) speculates that the ice's mass at each pole is about 6.6 billion tons. In comparison a large Antarctic iceberg of 400 million tons would provide enough fresh water for 3 million people for a year. You can do the math on what that means for human habitation of the moon (I'm a lawyer, Jim, not a hydrologist!), but suffice to say if the estimates of Lunar ice are anywhere near accurate that's a lot of glasses of water. (Not as many as on Mars, that's true, and the water ice on Mars covers much more territory than on Luna. Still, it's a lot of Lunar water.)

Which brings us back to the first NASA article linked above. There's a map embedded in it with blue shading at the polar regions to indicate where the hydrogen, believed to be water ice, was detected. If that belief turns out to be true, the blue regions could well show where human civilization will develop on the moon, or at the least, where the more expensive real estate will be.

-tdr

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