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Astronomers Find Widespread Water On The Moon: Can This Sustain Future Lunar Habitat?

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Data from lunar missions offer proof that the moon's water is widely distributed across the lunar surface, and not confined to some regions or a particular terrain.

Widespread Presence Of Water On Moon's Surface

Joshua Bandfield, from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado and one of the authors of the study reporting the findings, said that signals indicate that water is always present regardless of the time of day. Water also appears to stick around.

"We incorporate a physics-based thermal correction into analysis of reflectance spectra from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and find that prominent absorption features consistent with OH/H2O can be present at all latitudes, local times and surface types examined," Bandfield and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in Nature Geoscience.

"This suggests the widespread presence of OH/H2O on the lunar surface without significant diurnal migration."

Implications On Future Moon Missions

If the moon contains enough water and this is reasonably convenient to access, future lunar explorers may be able to to use it as drinking water or even convert it to oxygen that may be used for breathing, or hydrogen that can fuel rockets.

The findings, however, suggest that the water is not the same as the one that humans on Earth are used to. It may also be difficult to access.

The water on the moon does not appear to be the same as the H2O found on Earth, which is consist of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen

Lunar water appears to exist primarily as a more reactive relative known as hydroxyl, or HO. Because it is more reactive, the water on the moon makes chemicals bond quickly. It also attaches to other other molecules.

This means that water needs to be extracted from minerals on the moon before these could be used. Researchers also said that water on the moon does not appear to move about between regions.

"Water on the Moon is of intense interest for many reasons," said study researcher Michael Poston, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

"When you split water molecules, you end up with oxygen and hydrogen, critical components for breathable air and rocket fuel. Hydroxyl (OH) is a more reactive relative to water and not as attractive as water in terms of supporting a lunar station."

Water For A Moon Habitat

Many lunar missions focus on water because it is a crucial resource for a moon habitat.

Earlier this year, Chinese students wrapped up a 200-day simulation of living on the lunar surface in preparation for China's plans for a real moon base. The Trump administration also wanted the U.S. space agency to go to the moon.

Establishing a moon base, or possibly a lunar colony provides a good testing ground for new technologies that may be used to keep humans alive on Mars.

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