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NASA reveals more mysteries of the moon (photos)

NASA spacecraft finds more evidence of water ice on the moon and also discovers many treasures including minerals, a natural bridge and abandoned spacecraft.
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By Andy Smith on
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NASA unveiled new data Thursday from two spacecraft it sent into lunar orbit , the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The LCROSS satellite purposely crashed into the lunar surface last year (gallery) and analysis showed that the resulting plume contained water ice crystals. Although the existance of water on the moon was announced last year, new details on the findings are being revealed in six papers published in Science. Plus, the LRO has also been taking pictures and examining the moon's surface for more hidden treasures.

Above is where the nose cone of a rocket and the LCROSS probe crashed into the lunar surface (x). Measured is the amount of ejecta material in sunlight, in kilograms per square meter, derived from visible light measurements from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer about 90 seconds after impact.

Credit: NASA. Click on any image to enlarge.

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The impact created a vapor cloud that shot up 12 miles from the surface made up of mostly water ice crystals.

Estimates have shown that there could be as much as 1.3 million pounds of water ice on the moon. Why is this so important? It costs about $400,000 to transport 1 gallon of water from the Earth to the moon. If man is to spend any length of time on the lunar surface, a source of water is critical.

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Based on the Diviner Lunar Radiometer measurements, the impact site was heated to more than 380°C (716°F).

Credit: UCLA/NASA/JPL/Goddard

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The chart shows simulated water vapor production after the ice was heated up by the crash of LCROSS - based on temperature measurements from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer.

Credit: UCLA/NASA/JPL/Goddard

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Here is an LRO Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment surface temperature map of the south polar region of the moon. The data were acquired during September and October 2009 when south polar temperatures were close to their annual maximum values. The blue indicates the coldest areas where pockets of water ice and compounds from comets may have possibly been there for more than a billion years.

The temperatures show where other minerals may be located on the moon. The LCROSS experiment showed that water ice is held in pockets under the moon's surface.

Credit: UCLA/NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif./Goddard

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Just before the LCROSS spacecraft slammed into Cabeus Crater, it snapped several images of the lunar surface. Sunlight reflected off the wall of Cabeus provided just enough light to see the surface. A diffuse cloud near the point of impact by the Centaur rocket stage that preceded LCROSS is interpreted as very high-angle ejecta falling back to the surface.

Credit: Brown University/Peter H. Schultz and Brendan Hermalyn, NASA/Ames Vertical Gun Range.

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The LRO has not only been examining data from the LCROSS experiment but it has been photographing the surface of the moon and has made some interesting discoveries. This natural bridge was discovered by the LRO spacecraft. It was probably formed by lava tubes. The bridge is about 23 feet wide on top and about 66 meters long.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/ASU

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Sinus Iridum is a relatively flat impact crater. It's biggest claim to fame is that the Chinese have selected it to be the landing site for their moon rover Chang'e 3 sometime before 2013.

There have been five spacecraft that have been sent to the moon in the last three years. The countries that have sent the probes include space newbies Japan, China, and India.

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The Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater contains boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. This image is 400 meters wide and the depth of the crater is estimated to be about 100 meters.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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The Western Hemisphere of the Earth as seen from the LRO. North America is toward the top left.

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Rainbows on the moon? Not quite as the position of the sun was wreaking havoc on the LRO cameras.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State Unversity

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Over time, the surface of the Moon fractures and buckles as it cools and shrinks, resulting in spectacular landforms. Stereo images provided by the LROC NAC allow a detailed look at these amazing features; view is to the east, foreground to background distance is ~3 km. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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The Eratosthenes crater where terraces (next photo) are indicated.

Credit: NSAS/GSFC/Arizona State University

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Terraces (upper left) form as the walls of the Eratosthenes crater slump down, creating a landslide while leaving the upper portion of the wall intact.

Credit: NSAS/GSFC/Arizona State University

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The North Pole of the moon.

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The South Pole of the moon. The darker areas are suspected to be filled with water ice.

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An earth observatory, Mt. Palomar, took this image of the location where the LCROSS spacecraft crash landed.

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The Necho crater contains terraces and is in an area that was affected by impact melt. The arrow points to the location of the next image.

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The shadows have been lightened to reveal this terrain inside the Necho crater.

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Necho crater terraces were formed when a section of the wall slumped into the crater shortly after impact.

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This is what is believed to be an ancient volcano in Lacus Mortis.

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This pit in Mare Ingenii is about 427-feet wide. Pits are rare on the moon.

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Humans have left their mark on the moon. Here's the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 1, the first land rover on the moon, which landed in November 1970

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In 10 months the Lunokhod 1 was driven about 10km by Soviet engineers on Earth. The Mars rover Opportunity has driven about 12km in 6 years.

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Here's what the Lunokhod 1 saw.

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The descent stage of the Eagle from the Apollo 11 mission is still where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left it. Can you imagine what it would fetch on eBay?

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LRO photos of four lunar landers.

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Apollo 11

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