According to two studies published on Monday, there is more water on the moon than previously thought. They are trapped in many tiny craters like ice, representing potential resources for future space missions.
It is water ice, trapped at the bottom of a large crater, permanently hidden in the shadows near the poles, where the temperature is extremely low.
The moon was not considered a dry star until 2008, when researchers discovered water molecules in the magma brought by Apollo astronauts.
Now, a study published in “Natural Astronomy” reveals that there are many micro-craters with water ice at the bottom, called “cold traps.”
“Imagine yourself near a pole near the moon: you will see countless tiny shadows scattered on the surface, most of which are smaller than a coin. Each shadow will be very cold enough to hold ice.” University of Colorado Astrophysics Paul Hayne of the Department said.
His team used data from two instruments on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LRO. By combining these measurement results with the 3D model, they can reproduce the size and distribution of shadows at a scale of less than 1 mm.
The temperature there will be the same as in the Great Crater: about -160°C. But there is more: “There are tens of billions of them, and the largest is tens of billions,” Paul Hayne said.
Add them to the identified area, the total water surface on the moon will reach 40,000 km2, of which 60% is located in the South Pole, “this shows that the water on the moon is more extensive than known. I am thinking” the main author of the study, Hai Hayne told AFP.
Asteroids that bring water
Another study published in “Natural Astronomy” provides chemical evidence that it is molecular water.
The Aerospace Telescope of the Stratospheric Infrared Astronomical Observatory (SOFIA) provided new data by observing the Moon at a more accurate wavelength than before-6 microns instead of 3 microns. Moreover, for the first time, researchers were able to clearly distinguish the H2O molecule (the chemical formula of water) of another chemical compound (hydroxyl, OH) mixed with it.
But where does this water come from? It may be caused by the fall of an asteroid that fell on the moon billions of years ago, and is believed to have the same origin as the Earth. Francis Rocard, a solar system expert at the French Space Research Center (CNES), explained that the water molecules expelled when these objects fall fall to the bottom of these craters, where they are permanently trapped by the cold.
If extraction technology can be developed, this will provide potential resources for future space missions, including the Moon Portal, which is a future miniature radio station that will be assembled in lunar orbit.
Rocard envisions that future manned missions will stop on the moon as if it were a gas station: “From there, the probe will be sent to the surface of the moon to collect water to provide supplies for the ship to Mars.”
A French astrophysicist said: “This will reduce the cost of the program because it is cheaper than taking water from the surface of the earth.” He pointed out that the journey to Mars will last six months.