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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Water on the moon: Indiana University geologist comments

Nov. 16, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- NASA's apparent discovery of copious water on the moon is a revolutionary development that could help answer questions about the origin of water on earth and other mysteries of the solar system, says Indiana University geologist Abhijit Basu. "This is just remarkable. Until now, we have never found water on the moon, at least in the form of H2O," said Basu, who for years conducted research on NASA lunar soils.



NASA reported Friday (Nov. 13) that preliminary data from the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicated the mission uncovered water when its upper-stage rocket crashed into the moon's Cabeus Crater on Oct. 9. The evidence was based on a close match between the spectrometer signature of near-infrared light passing through a plume kicked up by the rocket, and the signature of water.

Basu said two theories could account for water on the moon. One is that bombardment with protons from solar wind could have released oxygen from lunar surface minerals, and the oxygen could have combined with the hydrogen ions to form water. Another is that comets could have collided with the moon, leaving water deposits. Once produced, he said, water would likely not have remained on the Moon's surface unless it was protected in craters such as the Cabeus Crater, "permanently" sheltered from sunlight.

More calculations are needed to confirm the discovery of water, Basu said, but Friday's news sent the lunar research community abuzz. While the announcement doesn't shake the scientific consensus that life has not developed on the moon, he said, it suggests that water, a necessary resource, could be available to support human exploration of the moon and further reaches of space.

To speak with Basu, contact Steve Hinnefeld at IU University Communications, 812-856-3488 or