NASA has confirmed that there is water on the moon thanks to two independent studies. Not on the poles where we found icy bits, but on the sunny side.
The research published in the journal Nature Astronomy has confirmed an enduring hypothesis that water can support a base of operations. One study found water molecules in the sunlit region that appear to be trapped. While the other found pockets of ice over an area just over 24,000km.
Water means extended living for astronauts, especially with NASA's Artemis Project as a gateway to Mars.
And very little or no supply shipments needed to launch from Earth, where the extra space can be used for other cargo. Plus the price tag to launch water into space is thousands of dollars per gallon.
The presence of water on the moon also means that future rockets could use it as a fuel source.
The thought of a dry moon persisted for hundreds of years. Astronomers of the 1800s couldn't see any visible lakes or bodies of water in craters and assumed the moon was dry. What happens to the dry moon perceptions when the first moon landing shows dust kicking up off the boots of Neil Armstrong?
It reinforces it.
Only recently did we think scientifically about the presence of water as it became an obvious advantage to further our space travel. Even after the 1978 Soviet Luna 24 probe's data was published and ignored.
Wet moon philosophy gained traction in the early 2000s. Meticulous moon studies and observations from spacecraft hinted at the possibility of water on the moon in a more palatable way.
Sure, the astronomers of yesterdecade saw no oceans or lakes of water. But the possibility of some water was enough to say the moon wasn't as desolate and dry as first thought.
And in 2018, the confirmation came that solidified the semi-moist moon theory. Ice deposits were found on the moon poles. A region of the moon unobserved by the first moon landing and hidden from our probes.
While not in liquid form - because the moon's poles can be a frigid ngative 250° C - water is water. All astronauts would have to do is warm it...
India's Chandrayaan-1 mapped minerals and other materials using a NASA instrument and detected compounds of hydrogen and oxygen. Or, the two components that create water (H2O).
But even so, could not rule out the possibility of water on the sunlit regions of the moon.
The sunny-side water discovery was thanks in part to SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 in Earth's upper atmosphere with an infrared telescope. SOFIA uncovered subtle differences in the moonlights wavelengths, to a degree of 6 microns. This might sound like non- specific scientific gobbledygook. But researchers believe this is a distinct sign of lunar water.
“Only molecular water can create a 6-micron band,” Nasa Goddard researcher Casey Honniball said.
Physicist and former associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, echoed the sentiments of Honniball. "The SOFIA measurements are similar to others, including the lunar samples from the Apollo missions," he said.
Clavius, a crater formation adjacent to the Moon's southern pole (and not a Latin medical term for a collarbone) housed individual molecules of water that we're spotted by SOFIA.
Honniball said the molecules "do not interact with one another and so cannot form liquid water or ice."
Well then, how did Clavius house the molecules?
Honniball suspects they are in "protected" pockets between grains of regolith (moon dust) and granular glass beads formed by the earing impact of micrometeorites.
This allowed the molecules to be "sheltered from the harsh lunar environment because, at the time of our observations, the location of the moon was quite warm," she said.
While the discovered particles aren't large enough to use by astronauts outright, they did detect a combined 0.35488 litres per cubic metre of regolith.
The second study detailed where ice could collect across the darker, permanently shadowed nooks of the moon the study called “micro cold traps,”
These indented craters on the Moon's surface could house water molecules in excess of 38849.822km. As mentioned before, they're cold. As in, -162.222 Celsius. This means ice could be trapped uninterrupted for a billion years, according to study author and planetary scientist, Paul Hayne.
Hayne and his cohorts estimated there are billions of micro cold traps on the Moon from the findings of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The traps can range from as small as a coin to close to a metre. While they don't have water by any degree of certainty, they make good search targets. Instead of lugging water out of a massive crater, astronauts could potentially pick up chunks like stones.
“The great thing about science is that both papers make predictions that are testable,” said Bethany Ehlmann, assistant professor of Caltech planetary science. She further mentioned that Lunar Trailblazer, a robotic mission orbiting the moon will search craters and microtraps for water.
Relatably, NASA announced in June that VIPER, a private company, will drill for water a metre below the lunar surface.
The efforts of SOPHIA combined with the mathematical models produced by the Reconaasaince Orbiter enrich and deepen the collective knowledge of water on the moon.
“Both papers deepen the mysteries of lunar water while providing pieces of the puzzle. It’s exciting to think that lurking in the shadow within ten degrees of the pole are tiny reservoirs of water ice.” continued Ehlmann.
We can only agree.