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SpaceViews: Clementine Team Confirms Lunar Ice Discovery

The following article is form the December 1996 issue of SpaceViews, an online monthly magazine put out by the Boston chapter of the NSS. It offers an excellent discussion of the findings of new evidence for ice on the lunar south pole.

Clementine Team Confirms Lunar Ice Discovery

A team of scientists from the Clementine lunar mission have confirmed the discovery of what they believe to be deposits of water ice in the permanent shadows of craters at the Moon's south pole.

In an article in the November 29 issue of Science, a team led by Stewart Nozette of the Air Force Phillips Laboratory discussed the results of a bistatic radar experiment conducted while the Clementine spacecraft was in orbit around the Moon in 1994. In the experiment, radar waves sent by Clementine bounced off the Moon and were recovered by 70-meter antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network.

The Clementine team found an enhancement in the signals in permanently shadowed craters in the Moon's south pole regions but nowhere else on the surface. The enhancement can be best explained by a body of water ice hidden in the crater.

The paper confirms rumors floating in the space community over the last two and a half years about the possible discovery of ice on the Moon. Such a discovery is seen as a big boost for efforts to return to the Moon, since the ice there could be used to provide water and oxygen for a manned settlement there.

The discovery of ice on the Moon "suddenly changes the whole calculus of going to the Moon," said Eugene Shoemaker, one of the co-authors of the paper.

The source of the ice has been hypothesized to be remnants of comets which crashed into the lunar surface over billions of years.


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