Moon Ice May Not Mean Usable Water (275)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Discovery of water on the moon would be exciting, but as a source of water to support a lunar colony it may be a bust, a University of Tennessee geologist said Tuesday.

 Dr. Larry Taylor, who has studied moon rocks since Neil Armstrong brought back the first lunar sample, said extracting water from moon rocks may be cheaper and easier than tapping the newly-discovered ice cap.

 The Pentagon announced Tuesday it is 90 percent certain an unmanned spacecraft has located a lake-sized mass of ice, apparently from a comet, in a deep crater near the moon’s south pole. The finding, scientists say, could increase the possibility of developing a moon colony.

 “Gold on the top of Mt. Everest isn’t worth nearly as much as gold out in the parking lot,” Taylor said. “It’s a question of where it (the water) is and how easy it is to get to it.

 “Logistically, it is in the worst place on the moon. It’s the coldest place and in a crater so deep the sun never shines. To have equipment that moves and operates there would be an engineering marvel.”

 Taylor said it might be feasible to place solar collectors on nearby mountain peaks that receive sunlight to melt the ice.

 Taylor, whose current research is looking a pulling hydrogen and oxygen from lunar rocks, said methods of using the water on the moon’s south pole should be investigated. In the long run, the rocks might be the better, least expensive source.

 “I wouldn’t throw out other methods of extracting water until I could go to the moon’s south pole and learn more about the logistics of melting and using it.”

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 Contact: Dr. Larry Taylor (423-974-2366)