Ice on the Moon? Scientists Hope for Confirmation

Scientists worldwide are agog with speculation that NASA will announce the discovery of water on the moon.

The space agency's recently launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reported tentative signs of lunar ice last week, and there are rumors that India's Chandrayaan-1 probe has more conclusive proof. NASA has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, and scientists are eagerly anticipating what may be revealed.

If there is water on the moon, it could be separated into oxygen and hydrogen, elements that would be critical to creating and keeping alive a human colony on the Moon. Beyond the life-sustaining aspects of oxygen and water, hydrogen in the ice could prove essential to manufacturing rocket fuel on the lunar surface. The Chandrayaan probe, launched on Oct. 22, 2008, carried NASA's Moon Minerology Mapper (M3) and may prove a success in spite of the communication failure that led to termination of its mission on Aug. 30. One of the craft's main goals was to sniff for water on the moon's polar regions.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reported last week that the coldest temperatures on the moon were usually in craters within bigger craters, hiding farther from the sun; these craters reached temperatures as low as 397 degrees below zero, temperatures cold enough to trap volatile chemicals, such as water and methane.