Science

Our Moon holds this key to space travel

Inside the craters of our ancient, pockmarked satellite may lie a valuable resource: water.

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Apollo-era Moon rocks showed no evidence of water on the Moon, so scientists in the 1960s thought our satellite was dry.

NASA

But in the 1990s, the evidence of water started trickling in as lunar orbiters observed traces of hydrogen atoms, which could come from water molecules.

NASA/JSC

In 2009, NASA sent part of an Atlas V rocket to smash into the Moon and release a plume of dust for a second spacecraft, called LCROSS, to analyze.

LCROSS also found evidence for hydrogen molecules, lending more evidence to the presence of water.

NASA/LRO

Since then, with data from other missions like NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and India’s Chandrayan-1 orbiter, scientists now understand where to find the Moon’s water.

NASA/LRO

On the Moon’s south pole, there are areas in craters that are permanently shadowed from the Sun’s oppressive heat and radiation.

NASA

This is where scientists think there could be stores of water ice.

NASA/LRO

That’s why NASA’s Artemis mission to establish a presence on the Moon is aiming for the south pole.

The Moon’s water could provide not only something for astronauts to drink, but also the ingredients to create oxygen and even rocket fuel.

NASA

Harnessing the Moon’s water could allow humans to become a space-faring species.

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The first phase of Artemis, slated to launch sometime in 2021, will deliver several spacecraft to the Moon to determine how much water there is, and where it is.

Subsequent missions will hopefully answer the question of how to harness this valuable resource.

Read more amazing space stories here.

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