There may be far more water on the Moon than previously thought, according to two studies published Monday raising the tantalising prospect that astronauts on future space missions could find refreshment, and maybe even fuel, on the lunar surface.
The Moon was believed to be bone dry until around a decade ago, when a series of findings suggested that our nearest celestial neighbour had traces of water ice in permanently-shadowed craters at its polar regions.
Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest water could be even more widespread, including the first confirmation that it is present even in easier-to-access sunlit areas.
If this water could be extracted, it could give astronauts travelling to the Moon and beyond access to drinking water. They might even be able to split the molecules to make rocket fuel.
That is of particular interest to NASA, which is planning a human mission to the Moon in 2024 and wants to build a sustainable presence there by the end of the decade to prepare for onward travel to Mars.
The new study was able to “unambiguously” distinguish the spectral fingerprint of molecular water in a sunlit area, said lead author Casey Honniball,