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Water on the Moon?
Participants stamp images of locations in our galaxy where water can be found The second of four Web Seminars on the topic of Lunar Exploration was held on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Anuradha Koratkar, Associate Research Scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology (GEST) Center. The presentation focused on the search for water on the Moon. Recent observations indicate the possibility of ice on the Moon, in particular, within lunar craters at the north and south poles of the Moon. The upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission will continue the search for water using different instruments.

Thirty-five (35) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In this presentation educators learned about the search for water on the Moon. Water is an important resource when exploring a remote location like the Moon. Astronauts living and working on the Moon will need water to survive and to feed their plants, for cleaning, and for laboratory experiments. Recent observations made by the Clementine mission indicate that ice may be present in permanently shadowed craters near the lunar poles.

Ice may exist in craters near the lunar poles

Water on Earth exists in three states: liquid, solid, and gas. To understand the conditions on the Moon and the state of water there, Dr. Koratkar engaged the participants in a review of the phase diagram tool. She used a generic phase diagram to review different concepts like critical point, triple point, evaporation, sublimation, and deposition. From the phase diagram of water and the participants’ knowledge of the extreme temperatures that exist on the Moon and its low value for atmospheric pressure, they concluded that if water is present on the surface of the Moon, it must be in a solid and/or a gaseous state. Since the Moon has a low force of gravity, water in a gaseous state is able to escape to space. Only water in solid state (ice) can be present on the Moon. The upcoming mission of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will search for evidence of ice on the Moon. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide on NASA Exploration: The Moon, Mars & Beyond, grades 5-8.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
  • "The seminar gave me a better understanding of how the states of water are affected by pressure and temp. It also clarified the difficulties we will have when exploring space if we can not find water on the moon or Mars."
  • "My students (elementary) have many questions about updated information on the solar system as we study. This is crucial to help them understand how our information changes and how technology helps us detect new data and remain informed. Thanks so much!"
  • "The information about locating water on the Moon will be useful as we plan inquiry lessons for middle school students in the planetary science course."
  • "Excellent job tonight, [the] review of phase diagrams [was] especially helpful."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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Underwritten in part by NASA