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SciTech Moon’s Rich Surface Contains Silver, Carbon Dioxide


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The surface of the moon contains not just water, but a rich mix of elements, including silver and carbon dioxide, astronomers said Thursday.

The findings to be published in the journal Science come from an analysis of data from the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) experiment that crashed into the moon last year.

Data from the experiment had already shown water is even more abundant on the moon’s craters than expected.

Scientists said Thursday they had found light hydrocarbons, traces of sulphur and carbon dioxide in the plume of dust kicked up by the crashing craft.

They have also been able to estimate more thoroughly the amount of water in the crater, which they believe makes up about 5.6 per cent of the mass in the crater. There’s enough water in the form of pure ice crystals to be useful for humans, both as pure water or separated into parts for fuel, the scientists found.

Silver was found in trace amounts among the light metals that also included sodium and mercury.

The dramatic experiment in 2009 crashed the LCROSS spacecraft into the moon’s Cabeus crater, sending a huge plume of dust 10 kilometres upward to gather data about ice that was suspected to be hidden in the perpetually dark lunar craters.

The components of the dust were analysed by another space craft called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that followed closely behind, gathering data. Major telescopes around the world were also aimed at the Cabeus crater on the moon’s south pole to capture data from the dust plume.

The analysis shows how rich the moon is in useful minerals and that it remains chemically active and has a water cycle, NASA scientists said.

“Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California.

“Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows.” The rocket’s impact was designed to replicate that of the large, natural asteroids that slam into the moon several times a month.

The NASA probe targeted a 100-kilometre wide, four-kilometre deep crater and was timed to strike when lighting conditions are ideal for observing the impact. The 585-kg craft created an impact crater about two metres deep.



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