Lunar global topographic map obtained from Kaguya (SELENE) altimetry data shown in Hammer equal-area projection. Credit: Hiroshi Araki et al. 2009

New high-res maps suggest little water in moon

12 Feb , 2009 by

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New maps of the moon from Japan’s Kaguya (SELENE) satellite suggest a lunar surface too rigid to allow for any liquid water, even deep below.

The new view is unveiled in one of three new papers in this week’s issue of the journal Science based on Kaguya (SELENE) data. In it, lead author Hiroshi Araki, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and international colleagues report that the Moon’s crust seems to be relatively rigid compared to Earth’s and may therefore lack water and other readily evaporating compounds. The new map is the most detailed ever created of the Moon, and reveals never-before-seen craters at the lunar poles.

“The surface can tell us a lot about what’s happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited,” said C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, and a study co-author. “For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars.”

Using the laser altimeter (LALT) instrument on board the Japanese Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) satellite, Araki and his colleagues mapped the Moon at an unprecedented 15-kilometer (9-mile) resolution. The map is the first to cover the Moon from pole to pole, with detailed measures of surface topography, on the dark side of the moon as well as the near side. The highest point — on the rim of the Dririchlet-Jackson basin near the equator — rises 11 kilometers (more than 6.5 miles) high, while the lowest point — the bottom of Antoniadi crater near the south pole — rests 9 kilometers (more than 5.5 miles) deep. In part, the new map will serve as a guide for future lunar rovers, which will scour the surface for geological resources.

But the team did something more with the map: they measured the roughness of the lunar surface, and used that information to calculate the stiffness of the crust. If water flowed beneath the lunar surface, the crust would be somewhat flexible, but it isn’t, the authors say. They add that the surface is too rigid to allow for any liquid water, even deep within the Moon. Earth’s surface is more flexible, by contrast, with the surface rising or falling as water flows above or below ground. Even Earth’s plate tectonics is due in part to water lubricating the crust.

Araki and his team say Mars, on a scale of surface roughness, falls somewhere between the Earth and the Moon — which suggests there may have once been liquid water, but that the surface is now very dry.

In the second Kaguya/SELENE study, lead author Takayuki Ono of Japan’s Tohoku University and colleagues describe debris layers between the near-side basalt flows, which suggest a possible period of reduced volcanism in the Moon’s early history. They propose that global cooling was probably a dominant driver of the shaping of lunar maria on the moon’s near side starting about 3 billion years ago. 

The third paper was authored by Noriyuki Namiki of Japan’s Kyushu University and his colleagues, who report gravity anomalies across the Moon’s far side indicating a rigid crust on the far side of the early Moon, and a more pliable one on the near side.

Source: Science

Polar topographic maps obtained from Kaguya (SELENE) altimetry data. Credit: Hiroshi Araki et al. 2009


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vagueofgodalming
Member
February 12, 2009 2:30 PM

“the dark side of the moon”

I think Science just fell like lightning from heaven.

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 12, 2009 1:18 PM

If there’s not a few thousand acre-feet of water pooled in certain areas on the Moon, then colonies will be considered mute.
It’s awfully expensive to heave alot of water
such long distances…………

Dave Finton
Member
February 12, 2009 3:39 PM

@robbi:

Not to mention that the supply of water would have to be continually renewed. You’re right, long-term lunar colonies is starting to look like a remote probability unless they find a surprise cache up there.

Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 12, 2009 4:16 PM
SELENE. Another important piece of the puzzle. So much for growing your own self reliant crops on the Moon any time soon – except of course you take the water with you! Of course the future route might be to instead grab heaps of material from passing comet and place it in lunar orbit. Difficult engineering feat even in the near future, but viable option for future colonists and explorers on the Moon. Another option is of course prudent water recycling, but again the tonnes of water needed to be shipped to the Moon again becomes the problem. Sounds like construction of lunar concrete, tested many decades ago, is also now just a engineering dream. Also how does… Read more »
Maxwell
Member
Maxwell
February 12, 2009 4:22 PM

If we cant find water, finding hydrogen or oxygen sources in near space would work too.

For a long term lunar colony of less than a dozen people this isn’t any kind of game stopper. You’d sustain them from earth the same way you’d have been sending up food and laundry, rationing out supplies the same as we do on the ISS now.

For a lunar City its a bit more important to have a constant supply… but of course if you can make such a large construct with supplies mainly from earth, sending water is probably not such a big deal.

Geoff of Essex
Member
Geoff of Essex
February 12, 2009 4:52 PM

What’s with the ‘dark side’ of the Moon comment; clearly the context shows the far side is meant. ‘Dark’ as in the unknown or unseen side has not applied since 1959. The ‘dark side’ simply means the area of the Moon unlit by either the Sun or the Earth..

Peter
Guest
Peter
February 12, 2009 9:23 PM

Now here’s a silly question…wouldn’t any water on the moon be pretty well and truly frozen by now? And haven’t I read that water, frozen to temperatures not unlike the vacuum of space, would be as hard and not unlike, granite? And wouldn’t that mean, that it could very well be there, just not very wet-like, and not altogether lubricatory either?
Just saying is all.

hal10000
Member
hal10000
February 12, 2009 9:55 PM

Even if there is little H2O on the moon. We are still detecting hydrogen in the poles, which could be cleaner than cometary slush. Furthermore, oxygen is the most abundant element in lunar soil, comprising nearly half of the lunar regolith by weight.

With chemical processes in extraction, water can be produced.

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 12, 2009 10:20 PM

Peter-Not a silly question,you pretty much answered your own questions, and with some warming, will indeed be quite
valuable. My understanding is it is about $10k
per pound of supplies to send into Earths’ orbit, but to break away from Earths’ orbital gravity and head for the Moon, this cost will be more but I don’t know what the price will be but it will be high. With water
about 7.5 pounds per gallon, water is very
valuable! I hope there is a few thousand
acre feet of water on the Moon, whatever
state it is in, otherwise, heaving so much
water to the Moon from time to time will be too expensive to even think of having a colony there.

RE
Member
February 13, 2009 7:15 AM

A billion dollars spent and we now know what Galileo knew in 1610 – there’s no water on the moon.

Space – it’s really dark . . .

billymac1
Guest
billymac1
February 13, 2009 8:56 AM
Maybe it’s time to send up an engineering demonstration mission to test out solar-powered robotic manufacturing of water. This would be from oxygen in the regolith combined with hydrogen sent up in as big a tank as the mission can allow and store it in empty canisters or tanks on the lander. If it works, there’s a startup supply of some quantity waiting to be used for a human mission or base to follow. At the present cost to loft a pound of water to the lunar surface, I wonder what the dollar value of robotically-produced water from a semi-autonomous demonstration mission would be. How much of the mission cost would be “subsidized” by the dollar value of… Read more »
s0l
Guest
s0l
February 13, 2009 9:14 AM

The more we find out about the moon the less it seems human friendly…Mars would be better. Plus on mars we know we have water, plenty of it. And acceptable temperatures, pressure and gravity.
And probably life.

The moon is just sterile. I hope constellation has been well thought about and planned and that it won’t juste be appollo number 2. Because people don’t care about the moon anymore, they want mars, a planet with a sky, snow, wind, colours…

Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 13, 2009 2:02 PM
To decipher robbi’s and billymac1’s cryptic comments for the rest of us… – $10K per pound is in SI units about $22,046 per kilogram (c.$22000) – Water density at 7.5 pounds per gallon, is wrong, assuming it is a liquid. One gallon of liquid water weighs 8.33 lbs. (assuming U.S. gallons and not imperial) If you use water as ice, then it is about 7.62 pounds per gallon of water! Equivalent in SI units, is so much simpler – at 4 degrees Celsius, it is 1.000 kilograms per litre! (1000kg/m^3) At room temperature (20 degrees Celcius), it weighs 998.2 kg/ m^3. When frozen, the density of water 915 kg/m^3 As for “acre feet of water”, equivalent is “hectare… Read more »
Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 13, 2009 2:09 PM

sOl wrote;

” I hope constellation has been well thought about and planned and that it won’t juste be Apollo number 2.”

Good point… Will the missions be labelled as Altair 1, Altair 2, etc., and what will the lunar expeditions be labelled when they a living on the lunar surface?

Another point I hadn’t thought of until now, would NASA be advised to offer a 24-hour TV channel of the lunar exploration for those on Earth to promote the missions and their new discoveries?

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 13, 2009 2:37 PM
billymac1 s0l billymac1- your idea sounds quite reasonable to me, using robotics and what KG6YRA said on his feed will find out the true feasiblity and cost without risking humans. s0l- Such thinking about Mars being friendly and the Moon is not interesting will change quite quickly when the general public starts to get educated about a true mission to Mars-on the length of time, distance, incredible ‘bordom’ of drifting day and day about halfway to Mars, the physiological perception of Earth being a point of light, the continuous fear should there be a dangerous problem occuring on the craft that can be deadly, there will be NO RESCUE!! We have as yet have no real life experiments… Read more »
robbi
Guest
robbi
February 13, 2009 2:47 PM

Salacious B. Crumb- I like your way to say my rough estimates of weight and cost are just that-rough. To give the ‘True’ weight and cost for such estimates will bore the general public and such equations will cause the general public to become ‘put off’ with these feeds and this site. Your specialize equations and true weights and costs will be more appropriate in a different site and feed.

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 13, 2009 2:55 PM

Salacious B. Crumb – I also know when I say ‘heave’ instead of launch is wrong,
however, I’m trying to have the general public read the posts and feeds to its’ full extent instead of becoming bored and look elsewhere. I write at times in an un-orthodox way to have people realize there are not just
an exclusive ‘club’ of ‘ a specialized high hierarchy of scientist here, no-one else better
post!!!!!

Geoff of Essex
Member
Geoff of Essex
February 13, 2009 3:16 PM

Regarding the comment(s) as to the cost increment of getting a payload from Earth orbit to an escape trajectory; to the Moon or elsewhere. Taking the cost to orbit as unity, then the defining parameter would be the ratio of orbital velocity to escape velocity (1:sqrt(2)^2) squared; assuming the cost is proportional to the energy required – the cost to escape velocity is about twice the cost to orbit.

I recall that it used to be said that doubling the energy required to reach orbit allows a payload to be sent to any other destination (eventually!!!)

Perhaps someone with a better handle on the economics of spaceflight might care to comment further.

Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 13, 2009 3:20 PM
robbi said Salacious B. Crumb- I like your way to say my rough estimates of weight and cost are just that-rough. To give the ‘True’ weight and cost for such estimates will bore the general public and such equations will cause the general public to become ‘put off’ with these feeds and this site. Your specialize equations and true weights and costs will be more appropriate in a different site and feed.” Always a good lawyers trick that is … accuse the accuser. In reality, perhaps you should instead focus just be a little more precise in what you say? As for the “general public”, well really that is not my problem ! – and I thought this… Read more »
robbi
Guest
robbi
February 13, 2009 3:36 PM

Salacious B. Crumb- sorry to say this,but your indirect perceptions of deceptions
is the name of your game, and since you stated this is indeed an open forum blog,
I stand by my conclusions.
C U L8R

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