NASA says there’s more water than previously thought on the moon

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NEW YORK october 26, 2020-There appears to be more water than previously thought on the moon — and the discovery could greatly help fuel deep-space exploration, NASA said Monday.

The water — which would be used for everything from drinking to the extraction of oxygen for astronauts to breath — is possibly trapped in “glass beads’’ about the size of a pencil tip in the moon’s soil, scientists said at a press conference.

“This discovery that water might be distributed across the lunar surface and not limited’’ to ice at the moon’s sunless poles, as the space agency had thought, raises the possibility that it could be “accessible as a human resource,’’ said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics director.

Enough water was detected in a cubic meter of soil outside the poles to fill a 12-ounce bottle, said Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

She said it may have come from a combination of hydrogen molecules in the moon’s solar rings and oxygen in its soil.

We think the water is trapped in these glass beads … which protects and preserves them,’’ Honniball said.

“This discovery that water might be distributed across the lunar surface and not limited’’ to the moon’s sunless poles, as the space agency had thought, raises the possibility that it could be “accessible as a human resource,’’ said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics director.

Enough water was detected in a cubic meter of soil outside the poles to fill a 12-ounce bottle, said Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

She said it may have come from the combination of hydrogen molecules in the moon’s solar rings with the oxygen in its soil.

“We think the water is trapped in these glass beads … which protects and preserves them,’’ Honniball said.

The discovery was made by a space laboratory above the moon known as SOPHIA, the Sratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which definitively detected water’s “chemical fingerprint,’’ Hertz said.

A scientist speculated at a NASA press conference in 2009 that there was possibly enough water on the moon to support bases there so man could eventually planet-hop around the galaxy.

In 2018, the agency said there was definitely water — possibly ancient — in the form of ice around the moon’s poles.

Scientists determined the water was ice from the way it reflected light.

They said it formed at the poles because temperatures don’t go above minus 250 degrees there, since sunlight never reaches them, given the only slight tilt of the moon’s axis.

NASA said Monday that scientists still have to determine what form the newly discovered water is in, how much of it exists and whether it can be extracted.

“This is the core part of the question — we really need to understand about the water that’s present,’’ said Jacob Bleacher, head of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA.

“We need to understand what form it’s in, how much of it there is.

“It’s far easier to travel when you don’t have to carry everything with you for the entire trip,’’ Bleacher said in a nod to how crucial outer-space water supplies would be to widespread planetary travel.

“We know water exists” on the moon. “So finding water that’s easier to reach is really important to us.’’

The agency has said it will send the first woman along with a man to the lunar surface in 2020 to prepare for hopefully putting humans on Mars in the 2030s.

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