According to this article, the water-ice discovered at Shackleton Crater is insufficient for human settlement.


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The uncertainty of science: According to this article, the water-ice discovery announced yesterday at Shackleton Crater is insufficient for human settlement.

The latest LRO data indicate “that water is not there … in a way that would facilitate human exploration,” says planetary scientist Maria Zuber, who led the team analyzing the data.

If the signatures the team saw in the soils on the crater floor do indicate water, how much water might there be? Roughly 100 gallons – enough to fill two or three residential rain barrels – spread over a surface of about 133 square miles. Leave the swim-suit at home. “This is not like Mars,” says Dr. Zuber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, in an interview. On the red planet, explorers would find thick layers of icy soil in many locations just by turning over a shovelful or two of topsoil. [emphasis mine]

This story seems to answer my question about Zuber’s participation in the water in Shackleton paper as well as the previous paper saying there is much less water on the Moon than previously believed. It also raises questions about the journalism work of many of the other stories published in the past few days, which heavily touted the possibility of water in Shackleton.

I intend to dig into this story a bit more. Stay tuned.

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6 comments

  • Joe

    You previously noted that Ms. Zuber was involved in two papers that seemed to give contradictory results.

    With which study is this article associated?

    Why do you assume the Christian Science Monitor article is any more reliable than those by Space Ref. and Space.com?

    I note this quote: “This is not like Mars,” says Dr. Zuber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, in an interview. On the red planet, explorers would find thick layers of icy soil in many locations just by turning over a shovelful or two of topsoil.”

    Is this science or Moon vs. Mars politics?

  • You did read the part where it says the LOLA instrument samples to depths of one MICRON (i.e., 10^-6 meter), didn’t you?

    This instrument cannot yield thickness estimates, an essential factor when you calculate VOLUMES (=area x thickness).

    Media science — a pull quote and a headline.

  • Joe

    Unfortunately one micron is about the depth of thought Mr. Zimmerman appears to have given this subject before writing an article that even questions the professionalism of other reporters (“It also raises questions about the journalism work of many of the other stories published in the past few days, which heavily touted the possibility of water in Shackleton”).

  • James Fincannon

    Good point Dr. Spudis.

    I just got the technical paper to examine. It states: “The 40 km by 40 km topographic model of Shackleton is derived from 5.358 million elevation measurements with an average of 0.34 altimeter measurements in each 10-m square area.” That means there is not even 1 laser beam bounce within a 100 square meter area! They have generated some pretty nice pictures considering only 6% has real data. Imagine your computer screen only showing 6% of the pixels. Of course, how they do this is to interpolate between all the empty spaces. So what is really in the empty spaces? Holes, rocks, ice crystals or just smooth flatness? Don’t know.

  • Joe

    Over interpolation of insufficient data, then drawing conclusions that are contradicted by other research. Sounds a lot like what Mr. Zimmerman has said about Global Warming research.

  • James Fincannon

    After further examination of the Zuber paper, it states that they used only reflectance data from between May 11, 2010 and May 30, 2010. This means the study used only a fraction of the 5.358 million data points (for the entire time period LOLA has operated) that were used to generate the laser image of Shackleton Crater area. Using the LOLA public data site, it is possible to see that the fraction of used data points (in the short time range) is only _4%_(!) of the 5.358 million points. It is reassuring that a cursory examination confirms the reflectance is stronger during that time period compared to other times. But it is not reassuring that if you translate the number of used laser data shots, it turns out to be one 5 meter diameter laser shot for every 83 meter by 83 meter area (the equivalent of a football field’s area). Hummmm. I am not going to assert that there are a lot of chunks of ice, ski slopes, snow men, etc in the vast space between these laser shots, but I do think they need to be a little more qualified in their statements.

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