Monday, June 3, 2013

GSFC releases LEND lunar water demonstration

Map of energetic neutron absorption near the lunar South Pole, showing the places where water ice is most likely to be found, built up and trapped for aeons in areas of extreme cold and darkness. Interestingly, not all the permanently shadowed regions show strong detection of hydrogen atoms while some areas that do receive at least some sunshine do register such a presence. Note the strong indication at Cabeus, chosen late in the LCROSS mission as its impact target in 2009. [NASA/GSFC/SVS/Roscosmos].
NASA has released a new video, prepared by the Science Visualization Studio (SVS) at Goddard, highlighting the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) and results of data that instrument has built up since it arrived in orbit with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) three years ago.

The new SVS video is a popular introduction the role of LEND as part of the LRO mission, not a comprehensive report of results except to show how data was methodically collected over many months in polar orbit.

Though not without some controversy, regarding its resolution and final value, the Russian LEND - a highly anticipated follow-up to Lunar Prospector (1998-1999) - has now orbited over the Moon's north and south poles 18,000 times. The instrument has measured absorption of neutrons scattered from the surface below, indicating the possible presence of water ice or other volatile hydrogen compounds at the Moon's high latitudes.

The press release discussion of the new LEND video reads, "Since the 1960's, scientists have suspected that frozen water could survive in cold, dark craters at the Moon's poles. While previous lunar missions have detected hints of water on the Moon, new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) pinpoints areas near the south pole where water is likely to exist. The key to this discovery is hydrogen, the main ingredient in water: LRO uses its Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector, or LEND, to measure how much hydrogen is trapped within the lunar soil. By combining years of LEND data, scientists see mounting evidence of hydrogen-rich areas near the Moon's south pole, strongly suggesting the presence of frozen water." 

Related Posts:
LRO LEND: "A Scientific Dispute" (March 27, 2012)
Will LRO LEND prove effective? (February 21, 2012)
Where are the wettest places on the Moon (October 23, 2010)
LRO analysis of LCROSS impact proves essential (October 21, 2010)

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