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Water on the Moon: A scientific mystery and a resource for human exploration

2017-07-07
  • Speaker : Dr. Charles A. Hibbitts (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
  • Date : 2017-08-23 16:00 ~ 17:00
  • Location : JYS 331-2
  • Host : Dr. Young-Jun Choi

Water is the most precious resource for sustaining life and enabling exploration. Consequently, until about a decade ago, exploration of the Moon had been limited to space missions and telescopic observations focused on understanding the geology and space environment of the Moon. It was believed the Moon was essentially dry even though there were strong clues for water ice at the poles from ‘enhanced hydrogen’ measurements by orbital neutron spectros measurements and intriguing anomalous radar scattering signatures within a few polar craters that might suggest ice.  It was the Indian Space Agency mission, Chandrayaan-1, combined with opportunistic observations by the comet mission, Deep Impact, and the Saturnian mission, Cassini, which made seminal discoveries to fundamentally change our understanding of and raised many more questions about what we now know to be a Moon that does indeed contain significant resources of water.   I will discuss some of what has been discovered by these international missions, and what we may learn from upcoming planned and potential missions returning to the Moon including the water ice at the poles, for which there are intriguing theories of origin and evolution.  We now also know the illuminated Moon may be ‘hydrated’ with some type of hydroxyl in its surface that may be ephemeral on a diurnal timescale, which is potential evidence for an active process. I will discuss various lines of evidence and theories supporting and arguing against significant hydration on the Moon and will explore the potential of both the confirmed and inferred ‘water’ deposits as possible resources to sustain human and robotic exploration of the surface.

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