Ashes and Water

Lots of media coverage this week on newly analyzed spectra showing elevated amounts of water in lunar dark mantling (pyroclastic) ash deposits.  I discuss the new finding and what it might mean in a new post over at Air & Space.  Comment here if so inclined.

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13 Responses to Ashes and Water

  1. Joe says:

    “Although of low grade (compared to the polar ice), once we have established a permanent presence on the Moon, operations might expand out to include low-latitude sites. The possibility of mining lunar pyroclastics for solar wind gas makes them an attractive potential prospect.”

    I was wondering precisely that when I read some of the articles on this subject.

    Thanks for the interesting article.

  2. Vladislaw says:

    Thank you Dr. Spudis, I was hoping you would comment.

  3. Your points are right on the mark. The non-polar deposits are still less than 1/2 part in 1000. The polar deposits seem to contain as much as 5 parts per hundred or 50 parts per thousand. This is about 100 times more than the volcanic glass water. In addition, the polar deposits contain more than just water; they contain a variety of organics and other materials.

    Fortunately, and unlike Mars, the moon’s axis has little inclination, so that there would be no year-long night and day cycle at the lunar poles. Like Mars, there are no fossil fuels on the moon, so nuclear reactors should be designed for both locations. Are the Greens worried about irradiating the non-existent lunar life? The lunar surface gets about 330 milli-sieverts a year of biological radiation dose anyway, so we better get good at putting crews underground from the start.

    NASA’s highest priority should be to get a rover to a lunar pole that can operate in the cryogenic shadows, and verify how much, how deep, how hard to mine and how pure the ice and volatile deposits are.

    John Strickland

    • Using microwaves should be the simplest method for extracting water from the lunar regolith at the poles, IMO. But I’d like to see a lot more detail on other methods for efficiently extracting water from the lunar ice deposits.

      I’d like to see a mixture of solar photovoltaic and nuclear fission utilized at a lunar outpost.

      It shouldn’t be difficult for battery powered mobile microwave water extraction vehicles to operate in the shadowed areas at the poles, periodically recharging their lithium batteries throughout the day.


  4. billgamesh says:

    I read the comments about this story on a tech blog with a space section and if they were representative of the citizenry then space exploration….seems like a lost cause. Many people have so very little knowledge they think SpaceX is ready to go to Mars and is now our space program instead of NASA.

    • Joe says:

      Wouldn’t worry to much about SpaceX’s Internet flying monkeys, the noise they make far exceeds their actual numbers and effectiveness.

      Additionally, their guru has recently: (1) Abandoned the Red Dragon (a Mars lander), (2) De-scoped the ITS (his proposed Mars Vehicle), and (3) Endorsed – wait for it – establishing a Base on the Moon.

      Their new talking points should be amusing.

      • billgamesh says:

        I wish you were right Joe but in my opinion the opposite is true. The SpaceX groupies have caused a huge amount of unrealized damage to public opinion. Year after year they have posted thousands of comments pushing their agenda and long ago silenced any critics with cyberthuggery. I believe they, and the constant flow of articles praising Musk and his fantasies, have profoundly influenced the way Americans view space exploration- in the worst possible way.

        • Joe says:

          The internet trolls and some of the “news reporting” are two different things.

          I agree with you about some of the sloppy “news reporting” that seems to be directly derived from SpaceX press releases. That is (unfortunately) not limited to print, it exists in television programing as well.

  5. jebowenag79 says:

    I also noticed the release of recent findings on small amounts of water inside tiny bubbles. Thanks for your article giving a little context to these findings and reminding the community to keep some perspective and balance between the science and the continuing search for good places for bases.

    In a way, it is comforting to know that additional discoveries flesh out but do not overturn the idea that the poles are about as good as we’re going to get in the way of a toehold for industrial investment. Let’s get started! Penetrators, orbiters and rovers first, to survey promising locations in successively greater resolution. Then follow that with a robotic mission to actually dig, process and “refine” some water.

    Back to the medium range surveys, and the penetrators Dr. Spudis has mentioned before. Has there been any interest in the lunar scientific community about pursuing this strategy, of multiple copies of a fairly inexpensive probe released at once, in order to take measurements across a wider range than one rover could handle?

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Has there been any interest in the lunar scientific community about pursuing this strategy

      There’s lots of interest in the lunar community, but the wheels of NASA bureaucracy grind exceedingly slowly. All attention and most of the money in the Science Directorate is focused on Mars and they do the minimum amount of lunar work necessary to claim that they are pursing a balanced exploration strategy. That won’t change unless there are some high-level changes in the agency.

      • billgamesh says:

        Once in a while I see an article referencing Shuttle C and Sidemount and it just….depresses me. If they had gone with Sidemount we would be launching it 6 times a year with an upper exploration stage. And with the space station to nowhere decommissioned on schedule in 2016 it would now be sending fleets of drones and rovers to the Moon looking for ice and lava tubes. It is so incredibly sad the U.S. continues to descend into this Mars mess while pointing billions at the rathole of NewSpace LEO tourist fantasyland.

        At some point it will become glaringly obvious NewSpace is primarily a façade to justify donating tax dollars to private satellite launch companies as hobby projects for billionaires- with the secondary goal of providing space clown tourism for their uber-wealthy buddies. What then? Is anybody going to throw the B.S. flag and expose the whole sordid saga of space exploration since a certain entrepreneur made a certain campaign contribution?

      • IMO, the lunar poles and the moons of Mars should be NASA’s top priorities as far as its unmanned space exploration program is concerned.

        Its the early part of the 21st century, yet we still don’t have any specific details on the relative quantities of elements contained in the regolith at the lunar poles or on the surfaces of Deimos and Phobos.

        Understanding the regolith components of these extremely important strategic and commercial areas in the solar system should have been prioritized by NASA way back in the 20th century– and we should have had an ample amount of sample returns from all of these regions a long time ago.


        • billgamesh says:

          Conflating the Moon with the moons of Mars is…a wrong turn. And there have been so many wrong turns made since the end of Apollo that space exploration is going to go over a cliff after a few more. So I have to vehemently disagree with you Marcel.

          We cannot keep playing this stupid game of “lets do whatever the public likes to click on” without losing everything sooner or later. Mars has been a P.R. scam since H.G. Wells. It seems just close enough to get to on the cheap but that is an illusion. It is not close enough. The Moon is close enough to get to using chemical propulsion and probably a half a century after we set up shop there we might be launching nuclear missions and those will be the first human crewed interplanetary voyages.

          Not before.

          The harsh reality. If we have true atomic spaceships capable of going to Mars they will of course bypass that rock in favor of the ocean moons of the gas giants. Even Ceres is a far more desirable destination than Mars.

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