Five quick questions about finding water on the moon answered

James Marshall
October 28, 2020

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.

NASA's flying telescope, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is literally a modified 747 aircraft equipped with telescope back. It was previously believed that water molecules could only be found in cold, shadowy areas of the lunar surface.

We have suspected that the moon has hidden a lot of frozen water ice in craters at the North and South Poles that never see the sun. It can be chemically split into hydrogen and oxygen, yielding components for rocket fuel-and breathable air.

"Water" has since been detected inside the minerals in lunar rocks. This raises new exciting questions regarding how water is created, and how it can survive in the extremely harsh, arid conditions of the lunar surface, explained Hertz. In organic chemistry, alcohols tend to include hydroxyl, which contributes to making molecules soluble in water.

On Monday, the USA space agency NASA announced its scientists had "for the first time" discovered water on the sunlit surface of the moon.

"Understanding where the water is will help us send astronauts to the Moon", he said. Having ready supplies of water on the lunar surface would be a boon for colonists there, because it is so expensive to transport from Earth. The second thing is that, on the earth we find life wherever there is water, energy and nutrients.

For now, Sofia can analyze only the moon's outermost surface, but these water molecules could be buried yards deep, Dr. Honniball noted. However, scientists at the time hypothesized that it was hydroxyl, a compound that's one hydrogen atom away from being the water we know and love.

The water molecules were present at about 100 to 400 parts per million, which was equivalent to a 12oz bottle of water spread across a cubic metre of lunar soil, she said.

More than 15,400 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of lunar terrain have the capability to trap water in the form of ice, according to the University of Colorado's Paul Hayne, who led the team of scientists.

The researchers suggest that water was created by the impact of meteorites slamming into the surface of the Moon.

NASA's Moon rover, VIPER, which will be the first US-owned rover one to land on the Moon in 48 years, is now set to land on the South Pole in late 2023 and will further investigate the presence of water. However, absorptions at this wavelength can not distinguish between molecular water and hydroxyl compounds.

That mining would be a boon to future Moon missions, says Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.

Where has water been found on the moon before?

So Casey Honniball, a lunar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and colleagues sought a different spectral signature that could be generated only by water.

Our discovery of water all across the solar system has been a major, if low-key, theme of the last 20 years of space exploration.

Whilst this is a big piece of research and a very interesting announcement, and further research could reveal even more, there's no guarantee that there's ice in these shadows, really. The team found that these so-called cold traps could get much smaller than expected, down to 1 cm (0.4 in) wide, and could be far more widespread than larger ones.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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