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Moon crash reveals no evidence of water

AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 13 -- When the Lunar Prospector charged into the Moon in a controlled crash in July, researchers were hoping it would kick up signs of water on the Moon. Now, researchers are reporting they didn't find any such signs. Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin presented their findings Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in Padua, Italy. In what was virtually a no-budget attempt to vaporize ice suspected to exist at the South Pole of the moon, NASA worked with UT Austin scientists to successfully crash the spacecraft in a specific polar crater in a precise manner. The crash July 31 took only a few seconds, but the researchers said the analysis of the information recorded by more than a dozen professional Earth- and space-based telescopes required several months to compile. Hundreds of amateur telescope owners also observed the Lunar Prospector plunged into a permanently shadowed crater near the pole. 'As expected, we didn't make a big splash, or we all would have seen a water signal quickly,' said David Goldstein, leader of the UT Austin team and an aerospace engineer and associate professor at the university. Goldstein worked to model and calculate the final orbit and crash of the spacecraft with R. Steven Neren, another UT aerospace engineer: aerospace engineering students J. Victor Austin and Jeong Yon Shim; and NASA engineers. Edward S. Barker, a research scientist with the UT Austin Department of Astronomy, coordinated the worldwide observations of the crash.

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Last year, the Lunar Prospector reported the spacecraft's instruments had revealed possible signs of water at the moon's north and south poles. At that point, the UT Austin team came up with the idea for the controlled crash. 'The way we aimed to detect water -- or signature -- was through sensitive spectrometers tuned to look for the ultraviolet spectral emission lines expected from the hydroxyl (OH) molecules,' said Barker. Scientists and engineers on the project knew from the beginning that there was a low probability of providing existence of water on the moon and the research discussed in Padua did not confirm water's existence. ---

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Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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