Two studies published by NASA reveal that there may be far more water on the Moon’s surface than expected. This has raised the prospect of astronauts finding water or even fuel on future space missions.
The Moon was believed to be completely deprived of water until ten years ago when through a series of findings, it was established that the moon has traces of water trapped in its surface.
However, the two new studies published on Monday hint towards the presence of much more water than expected, including ice captured in permanently shadowed “cold traps” at lunar polar regions.
Previous research, which involved scanning the surface, indicated the presence of water, but failed to distinguish between water – made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom) and hydroxyl (made up of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom).
The new study, however, provides further chemical evidence that the Moon has molecular water present even in the sunlit areas.
🌔 ICYMI… using our @SOFIATelescope, we found water on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time. Scientists think the water could be stored inside glass beadlike structures within the soil that can be smaller than the tip of a pencil. A recap: https://t.co/lCDDp7pbcl pic.twitter.com/d3CRe96LDm
— NASA (@NASA) October 26, 2020
The second study inspected the areas of the Moon’s polar regions, where it is believed that water is stored in the form of ice in lunar craters that do not receive any sunlight.
Earlier in 2009, NASA had discovered water crystals in a deep crater near the South Pole of the Moon. However, the new study indicates the presence of billions of micro-craters that could contain water in the form of ice.
As per the authors of the study, this could indicate that approximately 40,000 km2 of the Moon’s surface has the capacity to store water.
NASA plans to establish a space station in lunar orbit called Gateway. The space agency is expecting that ice excavated from the Moon’s south pole may one day be used as drinking water.
NASA also expects to generate rocket fuel by splitting the molecules apart for an onward journey.