WASHINGTON (AFP) – A "significant amount" of frozen water has been found on the moon, the US space agency said heralding a giant leap forward in space exploration and boosting hopes of a permanent lunar base.
Preliminary data from a dramatic experiment on the moon "indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater," NASA said in a statement on Friday.
"The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon," it added, as ecstatic scientists celebrated the landmark discovery.
"Yes indeed we found water and we did not find only a little bit but a significant amount," said Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the 79-million-dollar LCROSS mission.
The data was found after NASA sent two spacecraft crashing into the lunar surface last month to probe Earth's nearest neighbor for water.
One rocket slammed into the Cabeus crater, near the lunar southern pole, at around 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) per hour.
The rocket was followed four minutes later by a spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the initial impact, which sent a huge plume of material billowing up from the bottom of the crater, untouched by sunlight for billions of years.
"In the 20- to 30-meter (66- to 100-foot) crater we found maybe about a dozen, at least, two-gallon buckets of water. This is an initial result," Colaprete told reporters.