NASA Found Water On The Moon For The First Time (Photos)
NASA reveals tiny pockets of ice on the lunar surface could provide enough oxygen, hydration and rocket fuel to support a human colony. Study estimates up to 40,000 square km of water hidden in cold traps in craters
NASA has confirmed, for the first time, that there is water on the sunlit surface of the moon.
The revelation means it is possible water is easily accessible and not just in the deep, permanently shadowed craters of the south pole, as was previously thought.
A separate piece of research found these so-called ‘cold traps’, which are always in shadow, may contain up to 15,000 square miles (40,000 square km) of water.
The discovery means future missions to the moon could be prolonged by making use of these water molecules which are scattered across the moon.
Astronauts could use the natural resource, which may have arrived via comets or solar winds, and turn it into oxygen or drinking water to sustain a future colony.
Scientists also say the water could be used to make rocket fuel, lightening missions and slashing mission costs to make interplanetary space travel easier and cheaper.
Previously, researchers speculated water was only present in cold traps and were unable to prove it was water and not a similar molecule called hydroxyl, which is found in drain cleaner.
The NASA research used a converted Boeing 747 that cruises around Earth above the clouds at an altitude of more than 41,000ft called Sofia.
It was tasked with clarifying findings published in 2009 which discovered molecular hydrogen and oxygen on the surface of the moon.
However, due to the nature of the decade-old analysis, astronomers were unable to say whether or not it was water (H20) or hydroxyl (OH) compounds, the chemical found in drain cleaner, due to the similarity in their chemical signature.
Dr Nick Tothill, a physicist at Western Sydney University, who was not involved in the research, said: ‘The problem was that the water ice signature that was found before was really just telling us that there were oxygen and hydrogen atoms bound together.
‘On the Earth, this is mainly water, but on the Moon, you can’t be so sure.’
The issue was a limitation of the equipment that used a wavelength of three micrometres, which is unable to tell apart hydroxyl minerals from water.
Sofia, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is equipped with a unique six micrometre sensor that detects ‘a fundamental vibration of molecular water’ that is completely unique to water.
The Sofia study found the water molecules in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
By detecting this, it is conclusive and indubitable proof of water on the sunlit surface of the moon, NASA says.
‘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.