Wet moon would make a great launchpad

A new analysis of NASA data to be published today has something interesting and unexpected to say about the Moon [via MetaFilter]:

“It’s really wet,” said Anthony Colaprete, co-author of one of the Science papers and a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. He and his colleagues estimate that 5.6% of the total mass of the targeted lunar crater’s soil consists of water ice. In other words, 2,200 pounds of moon dirt would yield a dozen gallons of water.

The presence of water doesn’t make it more likely that there ever was life on the moon, as the location studied is among the coldest in the solar system. But the large quantity boosts the case for a manned lunar base from which to launch other interplanetary adventures. Water is crucial because its components, hydrogen and oxygen, are key ingredients for rocket fuel. Oxygen can also be extracted from water to make breathable air.

I’ll bet there’s more than a few handfuls of far-sighted space-business types adding that data to their long-term planning dossiers. Orbitals first, lunar base second, and from there the solar system’s your oyster…

… or alternatively, the world’s super-rich can decamp to the water-rich Moon while the rest of us fight over the limited amount of it available to us down at this end of the gravity well. There’s at least one novel in that idea, I reckon.