Soviet find of water on the Moon in the 1970s ignored by the West

June 1st, 2012 in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration
Luna 24


Luna 24

(Phys.org) -- In August 1976 Luna 24 landed on the moon and returned to Earth with samples of rocks, which were found to contain water, but this finding was ignored by scientists in the West.

US missions to the moon brought back a total of around 300 kilograms of . Many samples were found to contain traces of water, but NASA believed the water was a contaminant originating on Earth, because had clogged the seals of some of the containers and prevented them from being closed properly.

The presence of water on the moon will be important if a is ever to be established, but for many decades the moon was believed by Western scientists to be dry. Three articles by Professor Arlin Crotts, an astrophysicist from Columbia University in New York, has now examined the history of scientific research on the presence of water on the moon and discovered that the Russians had found water in moon rocks in 1976.

The US sent Clementine to the moon in 1994 to use radar to look for water ice by analyzing the reflected beamed at the surface, and it provided the first Western proof of crystals of water ice under the . The Lunar Prospector mission in 1998 also looked for water, this time by comparing the amount of neutrons emitted from the surface with the amount that should be present if there was no water to absorb them. Even more recently, in 2009, the Indian mission Chandrayaan-I found evidence of water on the moon by using infrared photography.

NASA also carried out an experiment in 2009 in which the upper stage of an empty Centaur rocket was crashed into a permanently shadowed (the most likely place to find ). The Centaur hit the moon at 2.5 km/s and formed a crater four meters deep and 25 meters wide. The plume of ejected material was analyzed and found to contain around 5.6 percent water.

The Soviet Luna 24 mission of 1976 drilled two meters down and extracted 170 grams of , which it brought back to Earth for analysis, taking every possible precaution to avoid contamination. The scientists found that water made up 0.1 percent of the mass of the soil, and published their results in the journal Geokhimiia in 1978. The journal does not have a wide readership among Western scientists even though it was also available in English, and Crotts said the work was never cited by any scientist in the West.

More information: Water on The Moon, I. Historical Overview - arxiv.org/abs/1205.5597
Water on The Moon, II. Origins & Resources - arxiv.org/abs/1205.5598
Water on The Moon, III. Volatiles & Activity - arxiv.org/abs/1205.5599

via ArXiv Blog

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"Soviet find of water on the Moon in the 1970s ignored by the West." June 1st, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-06-soviet-moon-1970s-west.html