Ice on Earth's moon?
Pentagon to report findings
December 2, 1996
Web posted at: 10:20 p.m. EST (1520 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ice has been discovered in the south pole region of Earth's moon, according to NASA's analysis of data from a probe sent there two years ago, sources said.
NASA's analysis of the terrain in that region of the moon led to the conclusion by NASA scientists and Defense Department officials, sources said. The Pentagon planned to announce the discovery at a news conference Tuesday.
The probe, known as "Clementine," was sent to the moon in 1994 and has been sending data back to scientists since. The program is funded by the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and is monitored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The presence of ice indicates to scientists that microbial life forms on the moon might be more likely than previously thought, and that it may be easier to sustain human colonies on the moon than once believed.
The data was collected by "radio waves beamed from the Clementine spacecraft into the polar areas" of the moon's surface. The data was then transmitted back to NASA scientists on Earth.
The patch of ice is thought to be about 25 feet thick and roughly the size of a small lake or pond.
One theory suggests the ice arrived as a comet -- which is mostly ice -- that plowed into the moon at or near the south pole, an area said to be roughly twice the size of Puerto Rico and which never sees the sun. The water molecules could then have migrated south to collect in a crater.
Six visits to the moon by Apollo spacecraft turned up no known evidence of life there. Twelve men, all from the U.S., have walked on the surface of the moon, which is about 245,000 miles from the Earth.
Ice on the Moon?
Pentagon News Conference
Tuesday 1:30 p.m. EST
Apollo 11 was the first to land there in 1969. Five subsequent Apollo missions successfully landed there before the moon shots were discontinued. The missions ended with Apollo 17.
Test your knowledge of the our nearest celestial neighbor, the Moon.
Correspondents Jamie McIntyre and John Holliman contributed to this report.
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