Scientists with NASA have recently announced that they have found significant evidence showing that water exists on the moon. Their research has also indicated that this water could be possible for humans to tap into, if a base of some sort were to be built on the moon.
For most of recent history, scientists believed that the moon was likely dry because it does not have an atmosphere to insulate it from the sun’s rays. However, many researcher’s attitudes on the subject changed in the 1990s when a spacecraft found evidence of ice in the craters at the moon’s poles. Then in 2009, imaging spectrometers onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft recorded signatures consistent with water in light reflecting off the moon’s surface, according to the Guardian.
While this gave scientists hope that there was water on the moon, it was impossible for them to tell if it was water for sure, because the readings could have actually been hydroxyl molecules, and not actual H2O.
However, a team at Nasa’s ASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, led by Casey Honniball has been able to prove that the signature is in fact H2O. They confirmed this finding by measuring the wavelengths of sunlight reflecting off the moon’s surface. The data was collected by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia), a modified Boeing 747 carrying a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope.
However, researchers still have many questions about the water sources on the moon. They do not know how abundant water is there, which is essential to find out if they hope to use it. Scientists hope that they will learn more through Nasa’s Artemis mission, which will be sending astronauts to the moon by 2024. British scientists are also developing a robotic drill to take samples of lunar soil from depths of up to a meter, as part of a Russian mission scheduled for 2025.
Paul Hayne, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is one of many researchers trying to learn more about the moon.
“With billions of potential water reservoirs scattered over the polar regions, the focus should be shifted away from the handful of well-known large craters and towards the multitude of potential landing sites our study reveals,” Prof Hayne said.
Earlier in October, eight countries including the UK signed the Artemis Accords, which is a set of international agreements drawn up by the US government that lays out a plan for future exploration of the moon and exploitation of its resources. Russia and China have still not signed onto the agreement, and they may not be able to depending on sanctions and trade agreements.
Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University, in Newcastle, says that the agreement hopes to ensure that activities between earth nations on the moon will be peaceful.
“The accords pull together the existing norms of behaviour that we’ve established, such as recognition that exploration of the moon should be for peaceful purposes, that there should be transparency in operations, and data sharing, and so on,” Newman said.