It’s been well established that there is water on the moon. But with so many unanswered questions surrounding this fact, a team of researchers analyzed the findings from two lunar missions, discovering that lunar water is spread evenly and widely across the satellite’s surface. This water, however, doesn’t appear to be easy to access, even if the analysis also revealed that the substance is mostly immobile and present at different times of the day.
The researchers believe their analysis, which was published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, is important, as it might explain how water originated on the moon, and determine if it can be easily obtained by would-be explorers. Assuming it’s easy to access with an abundant supply, NASA’s website pointed out that lunar water could be consumed as drinking water, and could also be converted into oxygen for breathing, or transformed into hydrogen and oxygen for a convenient source of rocket fuel.
In a statement quoted by the NASA website, Space Science Institute senior research scientist and study lead author Joshua Bandfield explained that water on the moon appears to be present day and night, regardless of the type of surface where it can be found.
“We find that it doesn’t matter what time of day or which latitude we look at, the signal indicating water always seems to be present. The presence of water doesn’t appear to depend on the composition of the surface, and the water sticks around.”
Water, water, everywhere, but is there a drop to drink? Data from 2 lunar missions finds evidence that the Moon’s water is widely distributed across the surface. If the Moon has enough accessible ????, it could be an essential resource to future explorers: https://t.co/4NuyjtO4uS pic.twitter.com/VlkTTKJqcp— NASA (@NASA) February 24, 2018
The new analysis counters the findings of previous studies, which theorized that the water on the moon could mostly be found in the polar regions, with the water signal’s strength waxing and waning as the lunar day progresses. According to BGR, this hypothesis had widely been accepted by scientists, but with the researchers using different methodologies and models in the new study, they were able to come up with the contradictory results.
Previous studies, which mostly took into account the amount of light reflected by the moon’s surface, were prone to false positives due to unexpected changes in temperature. But in the new study, Bandfield and his team used a model that included those most extreme temperature shifts as a variable, thus resulting in what they feel is a “more accurate picture” of water on the moon, as further noted by BGR.
In another interesting finding, the researchers speculated that the water on the moon might take the form of OH, a “more reactive” relative of conventional H2O that consists of one oxygen and one hydrogen atom. This substance can only be used if extracted from minerals, as it tends to attach itself to or attack molecules, as noted on the NASA website.
Even as the new study offered a compelling argument to suggest that water on the moon is more widespread than once thought, it remains unsure how explorers would be able to access that water. According to BGR, researchers have yet to thoroughly look into the ways usable water can be extracted from the moon’s surface; this could pose a problem, as temporary settlements on the moon would still require a lot of water for nourishment and other purposes.