NASA, having dropped tantalising hints days ago about an “exciting new discovery about the moon”, has revealed conclusive evidence of water on Earth’s only natural satellite.
Water has been discovered on the sunlit surface of the moon, NASA announced on Monday, an important revelation that indicates water may be distributed across the lunar surface and not just limited to its cold, shadowed places such as the poles.
The findings have been published as two papers in the journal Nature Astronomy.
This is great news for NASA as it wants to establish a lunar base, where astronauts can be sustained by using the resources for drinking and rocket fuel production.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 and has earmarked 2030 for the very first Mars crewed surface mission.
“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, in a statement. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”
🌔 ICYMI… using our @SOFIATelescope, we found water on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time. Scientists think the water could be stored inside glass beadlike structures within the soil that can be smaller than the tip of a pencil. A recap: https://t.co/lCDDp7pbcl pic.twitter.com/d3CRe96LDm
— NASA (@NASA) October 26, 2020
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine put the discovery into perspective on Twitter.
NEWS: We confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon for the 1st time using @SOFIAtelescope. We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the Moon is key for our #Artemis exploration plans. Join the media telecon at https://t.co/vOGoSHt74c pic.twitter.com/7p2QopMhod
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) October 26, 2020
However, if the water is a resource, it opens up endless possibilities for new space exploration.
“If we can use the resources at the moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, Chief Exploration Scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
The discovery was made by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which analyses the atmospheres of distant planets and moons.
Dubbed the world’s largest airborne observatory, SOFIA is a modified 747 that flies high in the Earth’s atmosphere to provide its nearly nine-foot telescope with a clear view of the universe and objects in our solar system.