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The Once and Future Moon

A Scientific Dispute

27 Mar 2012, 16:27 UTC
A Scientific Dispute
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A scientific dust-up, featuring raw data and bare knuckles. Who and what should we believe?

Uncollimated (left) and collimated (right) views of the Moon from the LEND instrument: What's being detected? (from Eke et al., 2012, LPSC 43, 2211)
Attendees at the recently concluded 43rd annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference had front row seats to a heated debate on new data from the Moon. As opposed to how many envision scientific debate – coolly logical, white-frocked intellectuals, dispassionately discussing points of contention in a laboratory – what they witnessed was an impassioned and stormy exchange of differing opinions. There is good reason for passion. Subsequent decisions based on these data places the success or failure of future missions in the crosshairs.
Point in question: a team of scientists on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission claim that their new neutron mapping shows that locations of high hydrogen content are not well correlated with dark areas near the poles of the Moon. This relation seems to contradict (at least, it is not consistent with) one of the key concepts about water at the poles of the Moon – that it occurs in dark polar cold traps, where water is stable ...

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