Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASAs LRO spacecraft observes water on Moons surface

NASAs LRO spacecraft observes water on Moons surface

More recently, scientists have identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith.

That research is based on observations gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been studying our planet's close companion since 2009. Until now, experts have believed that water molecules could be found only in the isolated packs of ice in the moon's poles.

Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), a far-ultraviolet (FUV) imaging spectrograph, has measured sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the Moon's surface.

'This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation's space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration, ' said Dr. Kurt Retherford, the principal investigator of the LAMP instrument from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The water on the Moon is more common at higher latitudes and it tends to move quickly as the surface warms up.

Understanding the lunar water cycle will help humans in learning about the accessibility of water that can be used by the civilization in the future and will aid a lot of future missions as well. This finding may help the American agency, as they are plans to put astronauts back on the lunar surface. But a recent slew of discoveries, including NASA's latest find, have challenged the way scientists understand lunar hydration.

"With the USA pushing a 'Back to the Moon" exploration campaign but this time with an emphasis on a more permanent presence, it might be of some comfort for any long-term lunar settlers to know that our celestial neighbour is not completely arid as once thought but has in fact its own water cycle; not one comparable to Earth, but a very small one nonetheless. "Previous research reported quantities of hopping water molecules that were too large to explain with known physical processes". But, the water noticed from the LAMP does not lessen when the lunar surface is protected by the surface of Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, it implies that the water does not appear because of the solar wind but it builds up over time. It's possible that the researchers were instead seeing water forming out of sun-supplied hydroxide molecules, an oxygen atom attached to a hydrogen atom, though they point out that their results are consistent with lab studies of water's behaviour. In addition, the presence of water on the Moon would be an important factor for NASA's budget and costing since transporting water from Earth is expensive.

According to John Keller, LRO deputy project scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, the study brought a significant beginning in advancing the water story on the moon ever since its first LRO mission.

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