The Pendleton Panther

The Search for Lunar Water

Posted on: October 21, 2009

While NASA’s LCROSS success crash landing onto the moon was spectacular, now that the probes and sensors have all been deployed, the real science can begin.  The surprises came right from the landing as excessive levels of sodium have been detected, and while it was known that some percentage of the lunar surface was made up of the highly active metal, the concentration is much greater than expected.  LCROSS identifies elements and compounds using its many spectrometers.  Spectrometers compare which frequencies of light pass through certain substances with known elemental frequencies.  These devices are highly accurate, and it is hoped that they will be able to detect water if any is present.  The probe, however, has even more up its sleeve.  Microwave ovens work by exciting water molecules by emitting electromagnetic waves at the frequency at which water resonates.  LCROSS is also armed with a microwave emitter, and it was hoped that energizing molecules of water would make them easier to detect.  Unfortunately, no water has been found thus far on the moon, but the abundance of hydrogen found on other moon missions keeps hopes high.

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