NASA announced that a "significant" amount of water has been found on the moon, following the LCROSS mission to "bomb" the moon earlier this year.
The LCROSS rocket blasted a crater on the moon's south pole in October 2009, creating a 60- to 100-foot-wide hole in the lunar surface and generating a plume of lunar debris that included "at least 24 gallons of water," writes the New York Times.
NASA notes that the plume included materials that had not seen sunlight in billions of years.
The evidence of lunar ice fields uncovered by NASA's moon blast suggests that the quantity of water on the moon could be greater and more widespread than previously suspected.
The New York Times reports,
"We got more than just whiff," said Peter H. Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator of the mission. "We practically tasted it with the impact."
Another NASA scientist commented on the discovery of water,
"Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount," Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.
Possible sources of the water include comets and solar winds, although NASA said that they are in the process of studying the water found to better understand its source.
The discovery "opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon," the agency said in a statement.
Finding water on the moon has major ramifications for the future of space exploration, as well as the study of the solar system's history.
NASA spokespersons at the press conference acknowledged that they were "excited" and "ecstatic" by the discovery and "impressed by the amount of water we found."
Read more about NASA's LCROSS mission to bomb the moon here.
See photos of the LCROSS mission below.
This visible camera image, from NASA, shows the ejecta plume at about 20 seconds after impact.
A computer simulation of the rocket targeting the impact site.
LRO and LCROSS creators
NASA says: "Technicians at Northrop Grumman gently maneuver the LCROSS spacecraft into the thermal vacuum chamber."
According to NASA: "The dark blue and purple areas at the moons poles indicate neutron emissions that are consistent with hydrogen-rich deposits covered by dessicated regolith. These hydrogen signatures are possible indications of water in the form of ice or hydrated minerals."
The side of Earth facing the Moon at the time of impact.
A computer visualization of LCROSS hitting the Moon on October 9, 2009.
The lunar south pole and the target crater, Cabeus A.
A computer simulation of the impact.