Soviet Moon Lander Discovered Water on the Moon in 1976

by Technology Review

The last Soviet mission to the moon, Luna-24, returned to Earth with water-rich rocks from beneath the lunar surface. But the West ignored the result.

The possibility of water on the moon has excited scientists and science fiction fans for decades. If we ever decide to maintain a human presence on the moon, clear evidence of water will be an important factor in the decision.

In recent years, that evidence has begun to mount. The data comes from several sources. First there was the pioneering Clementine mission in 1994, America’s first return to the moon in twenty years.

Clementine looked for water by bouncing radio waves off the surface–the returns giving a strong indication that water ice must lie beneath the surface.

Then there was the Lunar Prospector which found a signature for water by measuring the amount of neutrons emitted from the surface  and which water ought to absorb).

Then there was Galileo’s flyby of the moon on its way to Jupiter, which also found evidence and more recently, the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-I in 2009 which used an infrared camera to spot evidence of water in lunar rocks.

All this has dramatically overturned the previous view that the moon was dry as a bone.

But an interesting question is how this view came to be. After all, there is no shortage of moon rocks on Earth–the Apollo missions brought back some 300 kilograms of the stuff, so much that NASA has lost track of much of it.

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