Meet Moon 2.0 (now with added water and other useful stuff)
Despite what I was told as a child, we are now pretty sure that the Moon is not made of cheese and, in case there was any doubt, the ‘magnificent desolation’ experienced by the Apollo lunar astronauts – and the chunks of definitely non-cheese derived rock they brought back with them – definitely put those rumours to bed.
The Apollo missions also proved one other thing – the Moon is dry and lifeless. Any hope that the ‘Sea of Tranquility’ hid any of the runny stuff that gave it its name was banished for good and the Moon officially became the driest (and most cheese free) place in the solar system. Then, in 2009, Nasa deliberately crashed one of their space probes (LCROSS) into a lunar crater whose interior had never seen the light of the Sun.
In the resulting plume of dust they detected the unmistakable signature of dihydrogen monoxide – that’s water to you and me. That report, like the first pee during a night of heavy drinking, opened the floodgates and, following the results of an Indian lunar explorer, Chandrayaan-1, those few ‘buckets’ of water became gallons in a single crater and those gallons became some 600million metric tonnes distributed across 40 craters, all in a couple of months.
New results from Nasa's LCROSS impact experiment, published today as a multi-page spectactular in the journal Science, have revealed that, in some areas at least, the Moon's dark craters hide concentrations of water-ice as high as five per cent – that's about 12 gallons for every tonne of lunar soil!