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NASA said Friday it had discovered water on the moon, opening "a new chapter" that could allow for the development of a lunar space station.

The discovery was announced by project scientist Anthony Colaprete at a midday news conference.

"I'm here today to tell you that indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit; we found a significant amount" -- about a dozen, two-gallon bucketfuls, he said, holding up several white plastic containers.

The find is based on preliminary data collected when the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, intentionally crashed October 9 into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.

After the satellite struck, a rocket flew through the debris cloud, measuring the amount of water and providing a host of other data, Colaprete said.

The project team concentrated on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the best information about the presence of water, Colaprete said. A spectrometer helps identify the composition of materials by examining light they emit or absorb.