Two studies published on Monday showed that the amount of water on the moon may be much more than previously thought. This adds to the tempting prospect that astronauts on future space missions can find freshness on the surface of the moon and even refuel.
It wasn’t until about ten years ago that people thought the moon was dry, when a series of discoveries showed that our nearest celestial body had traces of water ice in permanently shadowed craters in its polar regions.
Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest that water may spread more widely, including the first confirmation that water exists even in areas exposed to sunlight that are more accessible.
If this water can be extracted, it will enable astronauts to land on the moon and obtain drinking water. They can even split molecules to make rocket fuel.
NASA is particularly interested in this. NASA is planning a human mission to the moon in 2024, and hopes to establish a sustainable presence on the moon before the end of this century in preparation for continuing to go to Mars.
Casey Honnibauer of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Research said the new study can “clearly” distinguish the spectral fingerprints of molecular water in areas exposed to sunlight.
“If we find that there is enough water in certain places, we may be able to use it as a resource for human exploration,” Hannibal, also a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told AFP.
Previous studies have found signs of water on the surface under sunlight, but these signs cannot distinguish between water (H2O) and hydroxyl, which is a molecule composed of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, and is a common drainage cleaner on earth.
Using data from the Airborne Telescope of the Stratospheric Infrared Astronomical Observatory (SOFIA), the researchers used a more precise wavelength than before, not 3 microns, but 6 microns.
They found that the concentration of water in the Clavius crater is about 100 to 400 parts per million, which is one of the largest water visible on earth.
Honnip said at the NASA press conference: “This is equivalent to 12 ounces (350 milliliters) of water in one cubic meter of lunar soil.”
She emphasized that these are not “puddles”, but dispersed molecules that do not form ice or liquid water.
Researchers believe that they originated from solar wind or micrometeorites, and believe that they may be trapped in glass beads or particles on the surface of the moon to protect them from the harsh atmosphere.
In the second study, the researchers studied the polar regions of the moon, and water ice that had never seen sunlight was found in lunar craters.
NASA discovered water crystals in a deep pit near the lunar south pole in 2009.
But this new study has found evidence of billions of micro-craters, each of which may produce a small amount of ice.
Paul Hein, the lead author of the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Colorado, said: “If you stand on the moon near one of the poles, you will see the entire shadow surface dotted with the entire’galaxy’.”
“Each of these tiny shadows, most of them are smaller than coins, they can get very cold, and most of them are big enough to hide ice.”
Hein said: “This shows that the water on the moon may be much wider than previously thought.”
The author says this could mean about 40,000 kilometers2 The surface of the moon has the ability to capture water.
They were able to reconstruct the size and distribution of these small craters using high-resolution images and lunar temperature obtained from NASA’s “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbit”.
Hein said that the micro crater should be as cold as a larger kilometer cavity, about -160 degrees Celsius, adding that there are “tens of billions” in it.
Hein said that these cold trap samples can tell us more about how the moon and even the earth obtain water, and may provide evidence of water carried by asteroids, comets and solar wind.
Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission, said it is vital to find more information about the source of water and its availability.
He told reporters: “Water is very important for deep space exploration. For our astronauts, it is a resource of direct value.” He added that water is heavy and therefore expensive to obtain from the earth.
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