Water has been discovered on the sunlit surface of the moon, NASA announced Monday, an important revelation that indicates water may be distributed across the lunar surface — and not just limited to its cold, shadowed places such as the poles.
“We had indications that H2O — the familiar water we know — might be present on the sunlit side of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division in the science mission directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, in a statement. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”
Water is a precious resource in deep space and a key ingredient of life as we know it. Whether the water on the moon is easily accessible for use as a resource remains to be determined, NASA said.
“We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the moon is key for our Artemis exploration plans,” NASA tweeted.
The Artemis program is a plan to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024.
“If we can use the resources at the moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s human exploration and operations mission Directorate.
The discovery was made by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a “flying telescope” that focuses on making discoveries about the atmosphere of planets and moons, according to Forbes.
Dubbed the world’s largest airborne observatory, SOFIA is a modified 747 that flies high in the Earth’s atmosphere to provide its nearly 9-foot telescope with a clear view of the universe and objects in our solar system, NASA said.
Flying above 99% of our atmosphere’s obscuring water vapor, SOFIA observes in infrared wavelengths and can detect phenomena impossible to see with visible light.
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