There is water on the moon’s surface, and ice may be widespread in its many shadows, according to a pair of studies published Monday (25) in the journal Nature Astronomy. The research confirms long-standing theories about the existence of lunar water that could someday enable astronauts to live there for extended periods.
One scientific team found the telltale sign of water molecules, perhaps bound up in glass, in a sunlit region. Another group estimated the widespread prevalence of tiny shadowed pockmarks on the lunar landscape, possible shelter for water ice over an area of 15,000 square miles.
Moon water has been eyed as a potential resource by NASA, which created a program named Artemis in 2019 to send American astronauts back to the moon this decade. Launching water to space costs thousands of dollars per gallon. Future explorers may be able to use lunar water not only to quench their own thirst but to refuel their rockets.The conception of a bone-dry moon persisted widely until relatively recently.
The new discovery comes from remote observation of the moon’s surface by an infrared telescope on SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 airplane that flies high in Earth’s atmosphere and scans the moon’s surface. The SOFIA study detected individual molecules of water near a massive crater formation, named Clavius, in the moon’s southern region.
A second report estimated where ice could collect across the moon’s permanently shadowed areas. Craters and indentations on the surface, which the authors called “micro cold traps,” could cover more than 15,000 square miles of the moon’s surface.
(The Washington Post)