NASA: Lunar orbiter begins mapping, studying moon surface


NASA reported on Thursday that the orbiters are finding that the south pole of the moon, with its shadowed craters and frigid -- about minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit -- temperatures, may hold water ice and hydrogen. The ice and hydrogen may have been deposited by comets and solar winds, and then accumulated over billions of years in or under the craters.

NASA scientists noted that if enough of these resources exist on the moon, future visitors there could mine them, instead of hauling water with them from Earth.

To get all of this scientific information back to Earth, the orbiter has a onboard that can send massive amounts of data across the 238,000 miles back to Mission Control.

A 13-inch-long tube, called a Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier, is designed to enable the orbiter to transmit 461GB of data per day, NASA noted, adding that it's more information than is generally found in a four-story library. And it transmits the information at a rate of up to 100 megabytes per second, compared to a typical high-speed Internet service of about 1 to 3 megabytes per second.