Saturday, April 30, 2005

Robots To Survey Moon Before Colonists

Prospecting for Lunar Water

Whether a moonbase will turn out to be feasible hinges largely on the question of water. Colonists need water to drink. They need water to grow plants. They can also break water apart to make air (oxygen) and rocket fuel (oxygen+hydrogen). Furthermore, water is surprisingly effective at blocking space radiation. Surrounding the 'base with a few feet of water would help protect explorers from solar flares and cosmic rays.

Colonists arriving on moon

To find out if lunar ice is truly there, NASA plans to send a robotic scout. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or "LRO" for short, is scheduled to launch in 2008 and to orbit the Moon for a year or more. Carrying six different scientific instruments, LRO will map the lunar environment in greater detail than ever before.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

"This is the first in a string of missions," says Gordon Chin, project scientist for LRO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "More robots will follow, about one per year, leading up to manned flight" no later than 2020.

Prospecting for Lunar Water



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