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Pure science is taking a backseat to long-term exploration goals as NASA prepares to send robotic scouts to the Moon. Still, a rich scientific haul will be inevitable, even without the peer-review wrangling that normally picks targets for expensive space-science missions.
Work on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) set for launch in 2008, and on the lander known only as RLEP-2--the second mission in the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program--is being driven more by the need to find a place for humans to land again than by unfettered curiosity about Earth's huge satellite.
NASA Developing Robotic Scouts For Lunar Exploration
Originally posted by FredT
NASA seems to be geting serious about going back to the moon. The primary goal is to discover if there is a source of water below the surface in order to provide a jumping off point to explore the rest of the galaxy. In addition to the purely scientific aspect the presence of water in the moon would also dove tail nicely with NASA's plans to try to use local resources in an eventual drive to Mars.
Originally posted by Frosty
I doubt whether there is a source of water more than I doubt whether there is water on the moon
On 5 March 1998 it was announced that data returned by the Lunar Prospector spacecraft indicated that water ice is present at both the north and south lunar poles, in agreement with Clementine results for the south pole reported in November 1996. The ice originally appeared to be mixed in with the lunar regolith (surface rocks, soil, and dust) at low concentrations conservatively estimated at 0.3 to 1 percent. Subsequent data from Lunar Prospector taken over a longer period has indicated the possible presence of discrete, confined, near-pure water ice deposits buried beneath as much as 18 inches (40 centimeters) of dry regolith, with the water signature being stronger at the Moon's north pole than at the south (1). The ice was thought to be spread over 10,000 to 50,000 square km (3,600 to 18,000 square miles) of area near the north pole and 5,000 to 20,000 square km (1,800 to 7,200 square miles) around the south pole, but the latest results show the water may be more concentrated in localized areas (roughly 1850 square km, or 650 square miles, at each pole) rather than being spread out over these large regions. The estimated total mass of ice is 6 trillion kg (6.6 billion tons). Uncertainties in the models mean this estimate could be off considerably.