The site of the impact was carefully chosen and has been shaded from direct sunlight for billions of years. The team at NASA concentrated their analysis of spectrometer data from the satellite, which provided the most definitive information about the presence of water. They were surprised by the abundance of water that they found, and now believe that it could be a lot more widespread than they had initially predicted. There are many craters at the polar extremes of the Moon that have areas unexposed to sunlight, and given that the impact history of the Moon includes countless comets that are composed entirely of water ice, it has now been shown that these sunless areas can hold on to that water for a very long time.
Enhanced view of the LCROSS impact plume
So, is this really that big a deal then?
Well, yes it is is a very big deal. The presence of water on the Moon means that it is less of a logistical headache for us to go there, and stay longer than to just plant flags and leave footprints. We can extract the water there and use it for human consumption and fuel. Without it we would have to haul all the water and fuel that we need up with us, and that's not a cheap or easy thing to do. Launch cost per pound is still around the $100,000 mark, which believe it or not makes a bottle of water on the Moon more expensive than some of those high-end waters - or scams, as I like to call them - here on Earth.
The LCROSS impact data
It is now possible to think realistically about a permanent base on the Moon, and a resource of water means that base can be self-sustaining. Not only can fuel and drinking water be produced, but hydroponics becomes a viable way to produce raw materials and foods. Launching from the Moon with its one sixth gravity of Earth is a lot less expensive and requires significantly less fuel - most of the fuel in a launch from Earth is used to launch the extra fuel required to get away from the gravitational influence of Earth.
With this announcement alone, expect very ambitious plans to be drawn up now that not only include a permanently manned moonbase, but also a spaceport that will be a jumping off point to Mars and beyond. The news is THAT big!
Happy Mooning Spacers!
Images credit: NASA