Nasa orbiter spots water molecules moving around on Moon

James Marshall
March 13, 2019

Now, NASA's instrument, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), has shown that there are water molecules moving on the moon.

Although NASA knew that the water molecules were bound to the regolith, they couldn't figure out why the water molecules would appear only at certain times on different lunar locations.

"This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation's space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration", Kurt Retherford, a co-author on the new research and the principal investigator of the LAMP instrument at Southwest Research Institute in Texas, said in a NASA statement. First, this is the first time an orbiting spacecraft has been used to so closely observe the movement of water molecules on the surface of a body like a moon, and second, the data could give us an idea about the quantity and distribution of water on the moon. However, when the temperature drops again, the water molecules return to the surface.

Water molecules are hopping around the moon as the lunar surface warms and cools throughout the day, new research suggests. However, the water observed by LAMP doesn't decrease when the Moon goes behind the Earth, meaning the water increase as time passes instead of raining down from the solar wind. This research revealed the amount of energy needed to remove water molecules from lunar materials, helping scientists understand how water is bound to surface materials.

"These results aid in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help us learn about accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon", said lead author Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. Water ice could be mined to provide liquid water for drinking and plant propagation in order to preserve a living "organism" into the moon.

Looking forward, NASA and other scientific groups have discussed the potential of using the Moon as a sort of jumping-off point for missions deeper into space. However, if that was true when the moon is behind the Earth and shielded from the solar wind, NASA says the "water spigot" should turn off, but it doesn't.

Also based on the study, lunar water can potentially be used by humans to use block radiation.

The search for the presence of lunar water has attracted considerable attention and motivated several recent lunar missions, mainly because of water's usefulness in rendering long term-lunar habitation more possible. Moreover, the water will be split into oxygen and hydrogen by solar panel-equipped electric power stations or a nuclear generator to provide us breathable oxygen, as well as, components for rocket fuel.

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