The Moon Has 'Moving Water', But Don't Break Out Your Swimsuit

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 12, 2019

NASA has leveraged an instrument that is aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter called the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project or LAMP.

The moon, was in the past, considered to be arid with any water that existed on the moon being stuck as pockets of ice in craters that are permanently shaded at the moon's poles. Now, they have tracked how individual water molecules bind and release from the rocky regolith as temperatures change over the course of the moon's monthlong daylight cycle. Water on the moon, which varies by location and time of day, is more common at higher altitudes and "bounces" around as the moon's surface increases in temperature. "Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable", said Amanda Hendrix, the lead author of the study, reports.

Water molecules remain tightly bound to the regolith until surface temperatures peak near lunar noon.

"We recently converted the LAMP's light collection mode to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside with more precision, allowing us to track more accurately where the water is and how much is present". "Previous research reported quantities of hopping water molecules that were too large to explain with known physical processes". Scientists have already discovered evidence of water in the Moon's rocks, which has likely been there since the Moon formed, as well as on its surface, probably deposited by meteors, according to the paper. I'm excited about these latest results because the amount of water interpreted here is consistent with what lab measurements indicate is possible.

Water on other planetary bodies could be a valuable resource not just for human explorers to drink, but also to serve as fuel for future robotic exploration, since water can be split to form rocket fuel, saving missions from having to carry that fuel from Earth. As a result, when the Moon passes behind the Earth and is shielded from the solar wind, the "water spigot" should essentially turn off.

But this was not the case and, instead, NASA said water on the Moon builds up over time rather than "raining down directly from the solar wind".

NASA is leading a sustainable return to the Moon with commercial and global partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

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