Water on the Moon
September 25, 2009

There's a lot of excitement buzzing about the discovery that the Moon probably contains water. That, obviously, would be a scientific discovery that runs contrary to everything we've thought for decades. The excitement over such a discovery is amplified several times over because it means that the Moon contains an element that we believe to be essential to all forms of life. If water can be extracted from the Moon, even as ice that is then melted to provide for human consumption, it could make manned outposts and missions to places like Mars far more feasible. Water can be (and is) regularly re-used throughout nature as well as by civilized societies, but it's extremely heavy by comparison with many other needs -- so if it could be taken from the Moon rather than carried along, it could improve the prospects for future missions. Water ice has also been found on Mars, which makes it possible that similar missions could reach farther out into the solar system. Of course, our excitement over the discovery of extraterrestrial water shouldn't allow us to forget that 1.1 billion people here on Earth have no clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation. Fortunately, some of the tools and engineering innovations used to deliver safe water in space can also be applied on Earth and are finding increasing application here.

September 2009
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last revised September 2009