Since the days of the Apollo Lunar missions, NASA has been searching for water on the Moon. They finally confirmed water existed several years ago, but recently the US space agency made a stunning discovery: the Moon has so much water under its surface that—in some regions—it rivals the quantities of water found inside the Earth.
The startling find comes from a Brown University team that successful measured the water in lunar melt inclusions—a feat no other researchers had ever managed to accomplish. The researchers admitted astonishment when the data showed the Moon’s mantle has an equivalent amount of water as Earth’s does in certain regions.
Study provides proof
The results of the study, published in Science Express by the team, is a follow-up study to one the same researchers initially conducted during 2008. That study, published in the journal Nature, first revealed the presence of water in the Moon at much higher quantities than previously thought.
Speaking with Science Daily, Alberto Saal stated, “…in 2008, we said the primitive water content in the lunar magmas should be similar to the water content in lavas coming from the Earth’s depleted upper mantle. Now, we have proven that is indeed the case.”
Saal is one of the authors of the research paper.
According to the paper, the researchers painstakingly employed cutting-edge technology—a NanoSIMS 50L ion microprobe—to determine an accurate measurement of the water present in the inclusions.
James Van Orman of Case Western Reserve University—also a member of the team—said, “In contrast to most volcanic deposits, the melt inclusions are encased in crystals that prevent the escape of water and other volatiles during eruption. These samples provide the best window we have on the amount of water in the interior of the Moon.”
Previously, NASA released data on October 20, 2010 that the Moon has at least enough water to fill 1,500 swimming pools. Then they amended that figure, stating that the Moon might contain up to one billion gallons of water.
The new study confirms that number and then some. Astonishingly the Moon may well have veritable oceans of water locked up inside it.
Moon cities and mining colonies
Scientists are elated. Previous speculation centered about a much lower amount of water. As little as one percent water was thought to be contained in lunar soil. That hypothesis was primarily based on the samples of moon soil returned for laboratory analysis by the Apollo astronauts.
Yet, even a lunar soil that contains as little as one percent water ice would be sufficient to support plans to construct lunar bases.
During a press conference held on October 21st, 2010 NASA planetary scientist Anthony Colaprete stated, “The number of one percent was generally agreed to as what was needed to be a net profit, a net return on the effort to extract it out of the dark shadows.”
Yet the indications are that water may be much more abundant than thought-perhaps as much as 5 times more than the previous calculations. “We saw 5 percent, which means that indeed where we impacted would be a net benefit to somebody looking for that resource,” Colaprete explained.
The fact that water may be in such abundance on what was one thought to be an inhospitable, arid world, is good news for exploration, and miners.
Miners? Yes, miners.
Both Russia and China have plans on their drawing boards to extensively explore the Moon with ongoing manned missions and establish bases with the purpose of surveying the lunar surface for Helium-3.
Research has led many to believe that the Moon may be rich in the element. That element—not found naturally on Earth—is critical for the future of commercial fusion reactors seen to be in place before the end of the 21st Century.
Water will play an important role in supporting such mining colonies.
The mining of Helium-3 could become a major space industry and possibly a major solution for civilization’s future energy needs.
“Water on the moon aplenty, locked inside volcanic grains of sand” – Empowered News
“Scientists Detect Earth-Equivalent Amount of Water Within the Moon” – Science Daily
“New water finding baffles moon scientists” – CBS News
“It’s Official: Water Found on the Moon” – Space.com
“Water on the Moon: a Billion Gallons” – ABCNews.com
“The Moon Hides Ice Where the Sun Don’t Shine” – Wired