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Thursday, March 5, 1998 Published at 22:05 GMT


Ice discovered on the Moon
image: [ Position of Lunar Prospector when Nasa announced its findings to the world ]
Position of Lunar Prospector when Nasa announced its findings to the world

James Wilkinson reports on the discovery for BBC TV's Nine O'clock News (3' 08")
Nasa says it has found evidence of ice on the Moon, a discovery which could support a lunar base.

Until now lunar bases remained in the realms of science fiction because of the enormous cost of sending water supplies from the Earth. The new discovery could mark the first step towards science fiction turning to science fact.

[ image: Water: the source of life]
Water: the source of life
Initial results from the space probe, Lunar Prospector, show that there may be between 10m and 300m metric tonnes of water locked away in the polar permafrost of the north and south poles of the Moon.

Al Binder: "There is water on the moon" (0'23")
Although, these findings are lower than some had anticipated, Nasa says it is enough to support 2,000 Lunar colonists for more than a century.

[ image: Al Binder makes public
Al Binder makes public "unquestionable" data
"We have the first unquestionable results that there are significant amounts of water at both lunar poles.

"It appears there is twice as much water ice in the north polar regions as in the south polar regions," said Al Binder of Nasa.

The moon was thought to be completely dry until last year when Clementine, a US Defence Department satellite, found a small lake at the moon's southern pole that is 30 metres (100 feet) deep at its deepest point.

Water is both potentially life sustaining and an ideal source of rocket fuel. Without water on the Moon, the cost of transporting these materials from Earth would make colonisation prohibitively expensive.

British scientists tell BBC Radio 4's PM programme of their excitement at the discovery (2' 2")
But scientists are warning enthusiastic space adventurers not to pack their bags yet.

Although the discovery of water makes colonisation more feasible, there remain significant technical and economic obstacles to be overcome before such a programme could even begin.

Lunar Prospector also has provided the most complete map so far of the moon's magnetic and gravitational fields, information that will help spacecraft in future missions.


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