Water Discovered on the Moon Brings New Opportunities in Space
Scientists can now confirm that water has been found on the moon. When it was first discovered in 2018, scientists could not confirm what it was. It could have been a molecule similar to water like hydroxyl, but with a new study published recently, we can confirm that this is water. It was confirmed by analyzing the moon’s surface in infrared, which gave off the unmistakable chemical signature of water.
The water found was very minimal and presented somewhat of a puzzle. Scientists estimate that there is only 1 kilogram of water for every few thousand kilograms of the moon. Experts are saying that the water likely got there from the existing hydroxyl (OH) from asteroids on the moon reacted with hydrogen atoms pelted at the moon by the sun to make H2O. This is a hypothesis that still needs further study. This analysis is a very likely one since the moon has faced countless foreign objects and has numerous craters. A research paper published recently says that scientists' next steps are to find where this water came from.
This discovery of water also means exciting things for a future moonbase. The desolate looking surface of the moon has many useful compounds and resources waiting to be cultivated. With water available on the moon, it facilitates future exploration. NASA announced they would be returning to the moon with the new program, Artemis, which aims to have a base on the moon by the end of the decade. The water available could be used by astronauts, and could be split into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. Scientists are considering landing in the north or south pole of the moon, due to its abundance of water in ice. Future rover missions to the moon, like NASA’s VIPER, aim to learn more about potential landing sites. The discovery of landing sites is due to the discovery made by our advanced telescope technology.
This discovery highlights the success of the telescope used called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA. This telescope is onboard a large satellite that is orbiting the Earth. The position of this telescope helps eliminate the unnecessary vapor in the atmosphere which disturbs infrared signals coming from outer space. We are now more likely to see more infrared telescopes that look out to find water and molecules necessary for life.
With new discoveries, we are getting closer to our goals of moving into space everyday! This exciting and very real possibility is sparking some debate over what happens when we get there. All nations are debating whether materials found on the moon and in outer space should be used for commercial purposes. In the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, most nations agreed that no one should put a claim of sovereignty over the moon and that its resources should only be used to better humanity. Exceptions to this are Russia and China and even in the treaty, there are loopholes. Commercialization is not explicitly prohibited and many more opportunities to establish control will surely be debated by companies and countries as exploration proceeds. Despite the contested legal precedents, humanity is getting closer and closer to moving beyond the confines of earth.
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Infrared Telescope shows water on moon