Was Russia's discovery of water on moon in 1976 ignored?

A Columbia University astrophysicist declares that the Luna 24 mission secured geological samples that had traces of water. The West, however, allegedly ignored the thought until 1994 when the Clementine mission produced similar results.

An image from the NASA Clementine mission. NASA

One day, when our children live on the Newt Gingrich Lunar subdivision , they will know just how watery the moon truly is.

As far as we in the West have been concerned, the first proof that there might be water up there came in 1994, when the Clementine mission returned results suggesting that there must at least be watery ice beneath the moon's surface.

However, a Columbia University astrophysicist, Arlin Crotts, has declared that the Russians had secured evidence of moon water as far back as 1976. This evidence was simply ignored by the high-fallutin' West.

A pulsating treatise offered by MIT's Technology Review claims that Russia's Luna 24 mission drilled 2 meters into the moon's surface, came back with 300 grammes (around 0.66lbs) of rock and found it to be 0.1 percent water.

You'd think, given such evidence, that the whole world would have already been preparing its escape to the moon. Alas, Crotts told Technology Review: "No other author has ever cited the Luna 24 work."

Why might that have been? Was there a lack of communication between the U.S. and the USSR back then? Well, perhaps a little.

But Crotts explained that the findings were published in a Russian journal called Geokhimiia, which no one in the West actually read.

Crofts has written three long pieces about the history of moon water. (They are available here, here and here.)

He describes, among other things, how one NASA project involved smashing an empty rocket stage into a moon crater to see what sort of substances would emerge. Water was, indeed, one. But so was carbon monoxide.

Now, he says, the belief is that the moon is significantly wet is generally accepted.

"As recently as 2006 the settled value for the lunar bulk water content was below 1 part per billion. Most values now discussed well exceed 1 part per million," he told Technology Review.

Yet this whole story seems terribly curious. If the Russians knew about water on the moon for 18 years, why did they not crow about it? Russians, like so many other nations, adore crowing about things -- more than they even enjoy throwing money at the poor .

Why didn't they press home their advantage, if it so obviously existed? And why didn't some spy whisper in the Americans' ears?

And why might the West have been less curious about Russian findings than it might?

Perhaps America's scientists were too consumed with sending the Viking 2 to Mars -- and with the launch that year of the marvelous Cray-1 supercomputer.

Perhaps the Brits were still enthralled by the launch of that wonderfully fast Concorde -- the passenger plane that went fast but didn't seem terribly practical.

The Canadians were possibly bathing in the glorious 1976 creation of the Toronto Blue Jays. The rest of the West was perhaps too busy welcoming the Seychelles to the United Nations.

No, I cannot find Crotts' explanation so easy to digest. It can't have been just a few Russian scientists who knew in 1976 that there was water on the moon. Can it?

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Mac running slow?

Boost your computer with these five useful tips that will clean up the clutter.