American Space Agency NASA has officially confirmed for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon.
The fact that the Moon has this precious natural resource, will expand the options for a permanent lunar settlement on earth’s only natural satellite.
NASA’s Project Artemis it should be remembered intends to put a man and a woman on the moon by 2024.
The space agency also hopes to have a sustained presence on and around the Moon by the late 2020s.
And now the fact that water has been confirmed, greatly expands the options of NASA for the placement of its lunar base, and it is being to tap into the natural resources of the moon.
A video of the discovery can be found here.
“NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon,” the space agency announced. “This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.”
SOFIA is an observatory located on board a modified Boeing 747 that flies above much of Earth’s atmosphere, giving a largely unobstructed view of the Solar System.
This observatory detected water molecules in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH).
“Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface,” said NASA .
The agency published the results in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.
“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,” said Hertz. “This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”
The fact that water has now also been in sunlit regions of the Moon’s surface, rather than just permanently shadowed parts of lunar craters, will give planners more flexibility as to where to site a lunar settlement, as the question ‘where to put a Moon base’ is largely focused on where the water is.
Sunlit areas of the moon could also allow a lunar base to reap the benefits of solar power for example, or grow crops in sealed pods that receive sunlight.
Another potential benefit is that this discovery will help in space missions back to Earth or other planets such as Mars, as the water could be turned into hydrogen and oxygen.
Hydrogen and oxygen is commonly used to power space craft.
Refuelling a spacecraft on the moon would be a cheaper option that sending it from Earth, and thus it would lower the overall cost of space travel and make a lunar base more affordable.
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