The Moon - Earth's 8th Continent
Recent discovery of water on the Moon paves the way to fully explore our 8th Continent – the size of the Americas, largely unexplored, full of resources & opportunity.
NASA’ recently announced discovery of widespread water on the lunar surface is a game changing event that is the equivalent of finding gold in California. Water can be used for sustaining life and converted to rocket fuel.
The water story continues to grow. Previously expected to be only at the lunar poles, NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper has detected widespread water on the lunar surface, corroborating results from other instruments and spacecraft (including the LRO Mini-RF and Chandrayaan Mini-SAR data collected by Odyssey Moon chief scientist Paul Spudis). Adding to the growing evidence was the "splashdown" of the NASA LCROSS mission, which confirmed significant water at the Lunar South Pole. This innovative NASA Ames mission sent a Centaur upper stage and satellite probe crashing into the shadowy polar region of the Moon on October 9, 2011, discovering significant water-ice along with hydro-carbons and other elements that have surprised even optimistic expectations.
The Moon represents a Rosetta Stone of science & knowledge waiting to be unlocked by the explorers of our age. Some practical benefits to lunar exploration include:
- Enabling exploration of the solar system and beyond. Space exploration is expensive because every ounce of propellant and spacecraft must be launched out of the Earth’s strong gravity field. A natural storehouse of materials, lunar soil is more than 40% oxygen by weight and oxygen makes up most of the mass of rocket propellant. Because of its shallower gravity well, the Moon is the stepping stone to the universe.
- The Moon can help save the Earth. For more than 30 years, NASA and the US Department of Energy have experimented with ways to capture abundant clean solar energy in space for use on Earth. Although the technology for doing this is well understood, the high cost of launching materials out of the Earth’s deep gravity well has prevented the implementation of these systems. However, if lunar material is used for space construction, clean energy could be supplied on a 24-hour basis without carbon dioxide or other hazards to the biosphere.
- We can learn about the Earth’s geologic past. Thanks to the Moon rocks and other information returned by Apollo astronauts, scientists now believe that the Moon was created by a collision between a planet-sized object and the early Earth. By exploring our nearest neighbor we are also exploring a remnant of ancient Earth.
- We can see more deeply into space. The Moon provides a large stable platform for astronomical observation unhindered by atmosphere. The far side of the Moon is the one “quiet” place in the Solar System that is shielded from the Earth’s cacophony of radio, television and data broadcasts. The body of the Moon itself provides this shielding, and a radio telescope on the lunar far side can detect energy from the beginning of the universe.
- Driving new technologies and devices. The Moon may be the most hostile environment we face in the near future. Surviving and exploring will require major advances in technology. Many of those technologies will also have practical use back home.