Water found on MoonNASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has observed water molecules moving around the dayside of Moon, a finding that could help scientists learn about the accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future lunar missions.
Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) — the instrument aboard LRO — measured sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the Moon’s surface, which helped characterise lunar hydration changes over the course of a day, revealed the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Until the last decade, scientists thought that the Moon was arid, with any water existing mainly as pockets of ice in permanently shaded craters near the poles.
More recently, they identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith.
But, the amount and locations were found to vary based on the time of day. The lunar water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.
However, the water observed by LAMP does not decrease when the Moon is shielded by the Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, suggesting water builds up over time, rather than “raining” down directly from the solar wind.
“These results aid in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help us learn about accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon,” said lead author Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.
“Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable,” Hendrix added.