Water exists on the moon, scientists confirm

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Scientists have gathered some of the most compelling evidence yet for the existence of water on the moon and it may be relatively accessible. The discovery has implications for future missions to the moon and deeper space exploration. With no significant atmosphere insulating it from the suns rays, it had been assumed that the moons surface was dry until the 1990s, when orbiting spacecraft found indications of ice in large and inaccessible craters near the moons poles. Then in 2009, imaging spectrometers onboard Indias Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft recorded signatures consistent with water in light reflecting off the moons surface. Even so, technical limitations meant it was impossible to know if this really was H2O (water) or hydroxyl molecules (consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom) in minerals. Now, Casey Honniball at Nasas ASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US, and colleagues have detected a chemical signature that is unambiguously H2O, by measuring the wavelengths of sunlight reflecting off the moons surface. The data was gathered by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy(Sofia), a modified Boeing 747 carrying a 2. 7-metre reflecting telescope. The water was discovered at high latitudes towards the moons south pole in abundances of about 100 to 400 parts per million H2O. That is quite a lot, said Mahesh Anand, professor of planetary science and exploration at the Open University in Milton Keynes. It is about as much as is dissolved in the lava flowing out of the Earths mid-ocean ridges, which could be harvested to make liquid water under the right temperature and pressure conditions. The existence of water has implications for future lunar missions, because it could be treated and used for drinking; separated into hydrogen and oxygen for use as a rocket propellant; and the oxygen could be used for breathing. Water is a very expensive commodity in space, said Anand.

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