Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Large Amount of Water Estimated Within the Moon: Good for Conquering, Bad for Origin Theory

The hard science behind the news is a little hard to explain but the news is groundbreaking none the less, the upper mantle of the Moon is now believed to have the same amount of water as the upper mantle of the Earth.  The water is not in the form of giant underground oceans but vast scatterings of ice beads in the dry magma rock.

The news is the latest piece in a series of announcements in the past few years which have indicated there is indeed a supply of water on the Moon.  While not enough to support and sustain human colonization, the ever increasing amount of water that we know of can be a good start of power production (something that if we had to import water to the Moon would just be impracticable).  If the water on the Moon can support industry like mining then the incentives for Moon exploration will be worth the costs, much like gold and silver made the conquest of North America worth the effort for various European power.

The presence of water in Earth-like quantities does raise an interesting question.  The most commonly accepted theory on the Moon's origin states that the Moon is the reformed remains of a slightly larger Earth which suffered a direct impact from the planet called Theia.  Previously known amounts of water on the Moon's surface presence were explained by claiming the water came from after the Theia-impact, after the Moon was formed by Earth-formed comets formed by other impacts.  That theory works.  The theory does not explain how water could be in the mantle which formed below a hot crust which would have melted any water.  While no theory can explain the ice presence and no theory can instantly replace the Theia-hypothesis, water in the Moon's crust presents a very large question mark to how the Moon was created.

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