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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 02:51 GMT



Sci/Tech

Water on the moon?
image: [ Conformation of the discovery should come within weeks. ]
Conformation of the discovery should come within weeks.

The BBC has been told that data sent back from the Lunar Prospector space probe suggests there is water on the moon.

If this is right, then the presence of water-ice on the moon will transform the prospects for a manned lunar colony.

It would be more likely that a base on the moon would be established before one on Mars.

Conformation of the discovery is expected from the Lunar Prospector team within weeks.


[ image: The South Pole of the Moon.]
The South Pole of the Moon.
For decades, scientists have speculated that there could be up to a billion tonnes of ice buried deep in craters, where sunlight never reaches.

The data sent back from the probe seems to indicate that there is water and water-ice in deep fissures near the South Pole.

Lunar Prospector was launched on January 7 from Florida on an Athena rocket. The 12-month mission also involves mapping the lunar surface to determine its composition and its gravitational and magnetic fields.

The total cost of the project is just under $63m, which includes the spacecraft, the science instruments, integration and test, launch and all mission operations.

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, in Sunnyvale, California built the spacecraft. The project began as a private initiative to show that small, inexpensive missions could be developed in a short time, and still do high quality science.
 





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  Internet Links

Lunar Prospector Home Page

Exploring the Moon - NASA Summary

Nasa's Discovery Programme home page


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