Water on the Moon might be more easily accessible than previously thought, opening up new possible avenues for future human exploration, according to a new study.
Why it matters: NASA is aiming to send people back to the Moon as part of its Artemis program by 2024 with plans to eventually create a sustainable presence on the lunar surface. That sustainability relies on mining the moon for its resources, like water.
What they found: The new study in the journal Nature Astronomy confirmed that water can persist on the sunlit parts of the Moon, meaning that it's likely more easily accessible than previously expected for future explorers.
- "This discovery reveals that water might be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to the cold, shadowed places near the lunar poles, where we have previously discovered water ice," NASA's Paul Hertz said during a press conference.
- The type of water found in the study is also encouraging, since it would be easier to use than other hydrated molecules found in earlier studies.
- And this water isn't in puddles or icy patches. Instead, scientists think that it may be molecular water embedded in glass created during impacts on the Moon.
Yes, but: The water found in this study might also be difficult to extract, even if it is in a relatively accessible part of the Moon.
- "If it's locked into glass beads ... it may require more energy to extract it," NASA's Jacob Bleacher said. "If the water is mixed up in the soil, it might be a little easier."
- Scientists and engineers also haven't yet figured out exactly how they might mine the Moon at some point in the future.
The bottom line: Scientists want to use water already on the Moon and out in space in order to cut back on the resources they need to launch from Earth. This new study could help them figure out how to do just that.