NASA set to unveil 'exciting' Moon discovery

Pablo Tucker
October 26, 2020

NASA announced Monday that two new studies show that there may be more water on the moon than previously thought.

Casey Honniball, the lead author on the study who published the results from her graduate thesis work at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu, said, "Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space, yet somehow we're seeing it".

There's more to this mission, however, than just agua - NASA says not only are they going to study the water, but the USA will also try to establish a long-term presence on the moon by the end of the decade, so they can springboard to the next planet on their radar. Nearly all of that water, they note, would be locked in shadowed areas between grains of lunar soil, or trapped in glassy materials created when micrometeorites smacked the lunar surface.

"We believe this will help expand the possible landing sites for future lunar missions seeking water, opening up real estate previously considered "off limits" for being bone dry", Hayne said in an email to The Associated Press.

However, the main advantage of SOFIA for astronomers is that it can fly through the shadows of planets and moons in the solar system when they occult stars.

Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.

"Many of those tiny shadows could be full of ice". Its telescope, almost 9 feet high, flies over a Boeing 747 high in the atmosphere to provide a clear view of objects in the solar system.

The Moon's soil, especially in polar regions, could hold substantial amounts of water. All up, the researchers estimate that cold traps could cover around 40,000 km (15,400 miles) of the lunar surface. In those temperatures, frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.

By using data from the lunar orbiter and modeling, the researchers determined that the lunar surface resembles that of a golf ball. Under NASA's Artemis program, the agency will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 to prepare for our next giant leap - human exploration of Mars as early as the 2030s.

Ahead of that, Hayne is also leading the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System, a NASA effort that will capture heat-sensing panoramic images of the moon's surface near its south pole in 2022.

Prof Hayne said: "Astronauts may not need to go into these deep, dark shadows". "They could walk around and find one that's a meter wide and that might be just as likely to harbor ice".

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