Agua Luna - Water on the Moon
Water on the Moon
As some of you may remember, last month NASA crashed a rocket into a crater of the moon while a trailing probe gathered data from the crash. The mission was called LCROSS for Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. The trailing probe also crashed into the crater, as was intended, but not before sending data back to Earth about the mile high debris field kicked up by the crashed rocket stage.
The rocket stage crashed into the Cabeus crater on the southern polar region of the moon. This crater appears to be in permanent shadow from earth. It has long been speculated that there might be water-ice on the moon possibly hiding in the shadows of craters on the north and south poles.
Scientists state that they found about twenty-six gallons (26) of water in a thirty (30) meter (ninety-eight point four [98.4'] foot) crater created by the crash. This is a significant amount of water.
Why does it Matter?
Water for Living
First and foremost every ounce of material that has to be transported into space is expensive in terms of energy to boost material into orbit, to the moon, or beyond.
Currently NASA estimates that for every sixteen (16oz) ounces of material transported to orbit, ten thousand ($10,000) dollars is expended. Transporting a gallon of water to the moon is even more expensive.
Since a gallon of water weighs over eight pounds (8.35 to be exact) the cost to boost one gallon of water to orbit would run $83,500. Getting that water to the moon would be much more expensive.
To put this another way each person living on earth requires about one hundred (100) gallons of water per day. This water is used for drinking, washing, and cooking. To support a two thousand (2,000) person community for a century would require thirty-three (33,000,000) million tons or seven point two billion (7.2bn) gallons of water...without recycling.
Getting that much water to the moon, not even to the surface, just to orbit, would cost sixty ($60,000,000,000,000) trillion dollars.
Water for Building
This does not include the water required to create structures out of lunar regolith. It is a well-known fact in the scientific community components within regoith are ideal for creating cement for construction, all it needs is water. This cement is referred to as Lunarcrete. Of course the ideal means of building structures on the moon would be to send an unmanned robot there that could build these structures prior to human habitation.
As luck would have it, Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at University of Southern California, wanted to create a way to rapidly rebuild housing destroyed in earthquakes in his native Iran. The proof of concept process is called Contour Crafting. (see videos below). When NASA scientists heard about and subsequently saw his demonstrations, the agency kicked in some of the funding Khoshnevis required.
Water could also be used to create rocket fuel along with the aluminum at seven percent, or oxygen at 40% that is already present in the regolith on the lunar surface. To read more about an aluminum/water-ice rocket, see my hub Rocket Fuel Consisting of Aluminum and Water Ice - ALICE.