NASA announced on Monday the discovery of water found on the sunlit surface of the moon. The water molecules were found in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth.
“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”
NASA said the amount of water discovered is relatively small. Data shows water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million, which NASA describes as “roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface,” according to a news release.
The research is published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.
As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil, officials said on Monday.
NASA said they plan additional research as part of the Artemis program to learn more about the presence of water on the Moon “in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.”
Without a thick atmosphere on the Moon, water should evaporate into space. Researchers are still working to determine why it’s not happening.
“Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there,” said Honniball, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries.”