In a major discovery, NASA announces there is water on the Moon

Rodiano Bonacci
Января 14, 2021

But future missions to the moon, like landing the first woman and next man near the south lunar pole by 2024 through NASA's Artemis program, could reveal more information.

Based on previous studies of the moon's surface conditions, the researchers say the water detected by SOFIA nearly certainly "resides within the interior of lunar grains, or is trapped between grains shielded from the harsh lunar environment".

The groundbreaking discovery was made by NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (AKA: SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747SP equipped with a 106-inch diameter telescope.

NASA announced it has discovered water on the sunlit surface of the moon.

SOFIA is the only telescope on or off-world capable of giving remote access to this unique, 6.1-micron fingerprint of water.

In NASA's news release on Monday, the U.S. government space agency makes clear that when they refer to previous "indications" water might be present on the sunlit side of the moon, they are referring to United States efforts in the 1990s, such as the 1994 Clementine spacecraft and 1998 Lunar Prospector orbiter, not to any Soviet finding.

"What was essentially a test far exceeded our expectations", she said.

Over the years, scientists have found many hints that there could be vast resources of water available on the Moon.

"It's far easier to travel when don't have to carry everything with you that you might need once you're there", Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said during the teleconference. "We find that the distribution of water over the small latitude range is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon", they said.

Credit PA
Moon holds more water in more places than ever thought

"But we didn't know how much, if any, was actually water molecules or something more like drain cleaner". If it's water, that counts as a valuable resource for lunar exploration.

The new study was able to "unambiguously" distinguish the spectral fingerprint of molecular water in a sunlit area, said lead author Casey Honniball, of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

The moon's surface is harsh. The data from SOFIA allowed Honniball to locate real molecular water on the sunny surfaces of the Moon.

Paul Hayne, an assistant professor in the laboratory of atmospheric and space physics at University of Colorado Boulder, explained: "If you can imagine standing on the surface of the moon near one of its poles, you would see shadows all over the place". NASA says they were able to detect between 100 and 412 parts per million in an area spanning a cubic meter of soil, which is around the equivalent of a standard 12-ounce bottle of water - to put that in context, NASA points out that "the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water" versus what SOFIA was able to detect.

It could be used for hydration, to grow food on a moonbase or long-haul missions, or even be split into rocket fuel, according to Duffy. Another possibility is a two-step process whereby the Sun's solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl.

Without a protective atmosphere, all water on the moon should be lost, but Honniball and her colleagues think water molecules may be trapped under tiny glass shields formed during micro-meteor impacts. It might be as simple as having a lunar rover drag icy rocks and soil into a sunlit spot and collect water as it evaporates. In organic chemistry, alcohols tend to include hydroxyl, which contributes to making molecules soluble in water.

One paper published in 1978 in Geokhimiia (Geochemistry), the monthly scientific journal of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, pretty definitively declared it had discovered water on the lunar surface in the Mare Crisium crater.

The moon's shadowed, frigid nooks and crannies may hold frozen water in more places and in larger quantities than previously suspected.

In the first study, scientists examined the moon's face in infrared, zeroing in on the source of the chemical signature in exquisite clarity.

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