By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
New York Times, Saturday, October 16, 1971
Dr. John W. Freeman, Jr. and Dr. H. Kent Hills, two Rice University
physicists, said mid yesterday that geysers of water vapor have been
detected erupting through cracks in the surface of the moon, providing
the first evidence that pools of water may lie beneath the otherwise
barren lunar landscape.
They said that instruments that had been left on the moon by Apollo
astronauts detected the geyser last March 7 on the eastern rim of the
moon's Ocean of Storms.
The eruptions lasted 14 hours the scientists said, and coincided with a
series of small moonquakes. They said that the clouds of water vapor
spread to cover an area of about 100 square miles. Other, lesser
geysers have apparently been identified, but the data on them are not
The report raises a number of interesting questions. Does it mean that
there is submerged liquid water on the moon? If so, how deep and
extensive is it and could it be tapped as a resource for future lunar
explorers? Could the discovery hasten the time when permanent
laboratories could be erected on the moon?
"This indicates," Dr. Freeman said at a news conference in Houston,
"there is possibly liquid water in the subsurface of the moon.
"In my opinion this represents a potential benefit and we could tap this
source of heat, energy and water if the day comes when the Congress and
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) see fit to
establish a permanent lunar base," Dr. Freeman added.
They made their discovery through an analysis of data radioed to earth
from two instruments, called "suprathermal ion detectors," which were
left on the moon by the Apollo 12 and 14 astronauts.
The instruments, which weigh only 19.6 pounds each, were designed to
measure the flux, composition, energy and velocity of ions, or charged
particles, in the vicinity of the lunar surface. Their main purpose was
to hunt for charged particles reaching the moon from outer space, for
traces of a lunar atmosphere and for any sign of volcanic processes on
In an interview by telephone from the Rice Campus, Dr. Freeman said that
he was "quite certain" that the data were reliable. The "signatures" of
the event on the moon "matched," he said, laboratory signatures of water
Each chemical compound depending on its atomic weight and charge,
produces a characteristic signal as it passes through the suprathermal
ion detector. These signals, which were telemetered to earth, are as
unique as a human fingerprint.
Dr. Freeman said that he and Dr. Hills delayed reporting their findings
more than six months to recheck and verify the data through computers.
This led him to conclude, he said, that "water vapor is the best fit"-or
"Certainly water vapor is the dominant component" in the event, Dr.
The scientists said they were unable to pinpoint the exact location of
the eruptions because they had only two points of reference-the landing
sites of Apollos 12 and 14. Three points are needed to pinpoint a site,
which should be possible for any future geysers because of the
subsequent deployment of a similar detector during the Apollo 15 mission
The scientists said that they were sure the detected vapor was not
related to the Apollo 14 lunar module as it took off from the moon. The
cloud was detected 29 days after the departure of Apollo 14.
In the vacuum of space, gases that would reach the lunar surface would
dissipate in a matter of hours.
Moreover, the Rice University physicists doubted that the cloud was
associated with a volcano. If it had been, they said, they would have
identified volcanic gases such as sulfur dioxide.
Other scientists, commenting on the findings, said that they lent new
weight to the growing body of evidence that the moon is not a completely
dead and inactive place.
Apollo seismometers have picked up numerous signals of moonquakes,
especially along the rims of the great lunar plains, or seas.
Ground-based telescopes have observed a number of "transients," which
are thought to be flares of gases escaping from the lunar interior.
Courtesy of Arizona MUFON
Vol. 7/Issue 1
What is significant about this article? After all, it was written
almost 27 years ago.
That's the point. Recently we have been told by NASA officials that one
of the primary missions of Prospecter is to determine if there is water
on the moon. Since we knew over a quarter of a century ago that there
was abundant water there, what is the real purpose of Prospecter? Could
it be to answer the question posed by Captain Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo
14 Astronaut, "We all know the UFOs are real. All we need to ask is
where do they come from?"