For the first time, scientists have found water on the moon’s sunlit surface. They say that such water reserves may be able to sustain a lunar base and other NASA activities. To confirm whether the data indicated hydroxyl or water, the scientists behind the present studies used different observatory points. One study, in particular, studied the moon using data from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne telescope. From the data, they found that water exists at around 100 to 400 parts per million, likely ‘sandwiched’ between grains of the lunar surface. The researchers think it is stored in bubbles of lunar glass or between grains on the surface that protect it from the harsh environment.
In another study, scientists looked for permanently shadowed areas (known as cold traps) where water could be captured and remain permanently. They found these cold traps at both poles and concluded that “approximately 40,000 km squared of the lunar surface has the capacity to trap water”.
(Image courtesy ; Wikipedia)
NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a later journey carrying a crew to Mars. Accessible sources where water can be harvested on the moon would beneficial to those endeavours. While there are a few lunar expeditions lined up for the next few years, NASA ultimately hopes to build a permanent habitation on the moon. Thus, the water resources on the moon present many opportunities- not just for drinking water but also for making rocket fuel, something that could bring down the cost of space travel from the possibility of refueling on the moon itself.