Moon River: Wider Than a Mile

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WASHINGTON: Message from the Lunar Prospector: There's water in them there craters. Or to be more precise, ice. The $65 million NASA probe thinks it has found between 10 and 100 million tons of the stuff, buried in polar craters -- enough to fill a lake two miles square and 35 feet deep. That kind of quantity, presumably deposited by comets and asteroids, could help us build oxygen-breathing lunar colonies and interplanetary refueling stations -- in the long run.

But before you grab your prospecting pans and kettles, a word of caution: All we've actually detected is hydrogen atoms. "The presence of water is a logical conclusion, but it is a leap of faith," says Alan Binder, a lead scientist on NASA's Prospector team. "We will have to sample it before we really know for sure." NASA admits, however, that had they known about this back in '69, it would have altered their entire lunar exploration strategy. Who knows, we could have all been sipping moon margaritas by now -- on the rocks, of course.