Playa Vista, Calif. (November 13, 2009) – A team of scientists from NASA announced today that significant amounts of water ice have been found at the MoonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s South Pole. This landmark finding, achieved through analysis of the material blasted from the lunar surface as part of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, provides a great boon to an international community of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs cultivating a new era of lunar exploration. The announcement also builds upon the groundbreaking research conducted by both NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization, which recently revealed trace amounts of water distributed across the MoonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s surface, previously thought to be more dehydrated that the driest deserts of Earth.The confirmation of the presence of water ice on the surface of the Moon is a game-changing discovery for space exploration. The Moon, already a hotly pursued destination of space agencies and private companies from around the world, becomes even more desirable with todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s news. With ready supplies of ice, future robotic spacecraft or human astronaut crews could generate not only drinking water but also gaseous hydrogen and oxygen Ã¢â‚¬â€excellent propellants that could be used for further space exploration beyond the Moon.
The discovery also provides new support for a private race to return to the Moon. The Google Lunar X PRIZE, a $30 million incentive prize created and operated by the X PRIZE Foundation, challenges privately funded teams from around the globe to send robots to explore the lunar surface and return high resolution video and imagery back to the Earth. The prize program includes a Water Detection Bonus, which pays additional prize money to teams that use robots on the lunar surface to provide confirmation of the presence of water ice. Until todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement, it was uncertain if this bonus would be obtainable.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The presence of significant quantities of ice on the lunar surface catapults the Moon from an interesting waypoint to a critical launching pad for humanityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exploration of the cosmos,Ã¢â‚¬Â said X PRIZE CEO and Chairman Peter Diamandis. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re entering a new era of lunar exploration Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬ËœMoon 2.0,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ in which an international group of companies and governments will use the ice and other unique resources of the Moon to help us expand the sphere of human influence, and to help us monitor and protect the Earth.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The success of the LCROSS mission is just the latest in a recent string of lunar probes. In the past two years, NASA, the Indian Space Research Organization, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and ChinaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National Space Administration have each placed satellites in orbit around the Moon. With more than twenty teams from eleven countries registered to compete in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we may be only a few years away from the first private lunar mission, and the first spacecraft to explore the lunar surface since 1976.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We congratulate the team at NASA and the brilliant engineers and scientists at the other space agencies who have made the discovery announced today possible,Ã¢â‚¬Â said X PRIZE Foundation Senior Director for Space Prize William Pomerantz. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re confident that these exciting findings will inspire a new generation of lunar pioneers to continue to transcend the boundaries of what was previously believed to be possible.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ABOUT THE X PRIZE FOUNDATION
The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation is creating and conducting competitions in four prize groups: Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy & Environment, and Education & Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition. For more information, please visit www.xprize.org.
ABOUT THE GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE
The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that challenges and inspires engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The $30 million prize purse is segmented into a $20 million Grand Prize, a $5 million Second Prize, and $5 million in bonus prizes. To win the Grand Prize, a team must successfully soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon, explore the lunar surface by moving at least 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images, and data back to the Earth. The Grand Prize is $20 million until December 31st, 2012; thereafter it will drop to $15 million until the prize expires on December 31st, 2014. For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, please visit www.googlelunarxprize.org.