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Why water on the moon actually matters

Credit: NASA, Moon Trek, USGS, and LRO

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NASA announced Monday it has found the best evidence yet of water on the Moon. In the journal Nature Astronomy, NASA scientists report the discovery of both molecular water and abundant icy water traps across the lunar surface

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The new findings may prove crucial for the future of long-distance space travel — including a manned trip to Mars.

Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

Both humans and spacecraft need water. But hauling this essential substance all the way from Earth is difficult — water is heavy, and spacecraft can only carry so much.

Nature Astronomy

To get around this, NASA hopes to mine water from the lunar surface and store it for use on future missions. This would also make establishing a manned lunar base, part of the plan for NASA's upcoming Artemis Mission, much more feasible.

The new research builds on studies published in 2018, which identified frozen water on the Moon’s north and south poles. But accessing that water could mean braving temperatures as cold as -250 Fahrenheit.

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The new discovery shows there is water ice on the Moon’s sunlit surface, making it much easier to actually access this H2O. The new discoveries also confirmed that the water seen in 2018 was in fact water, and not something else.

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"Finding water that is easier to reach is really important to us," Jacob Bleacher, a NASA researcher involved in the work, said during a press conference to discuss the research.

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Finding a reliable source of water on the Moon could also help astronauts efficiently refuel their rockets on their way to further vistas, including missions to Mars.

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And thanks to the new evidence of “icy water traps” also reported in these studies, researchers are increasingly hopeful that water on the Moon may not be a rare occurrence after all.

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“It definitely expands the possibilities,” Paul Hayne, a researcher at the University of Colorado, and lead author of one of the new studies, said. “What this discovery does is also expand the real estate on the lunar surface where a base could be viable.”

Read more about water on the Moon here.

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