Presence of Water Confirmed on the Moon

Jahir Rojas-Reyes, Journalist

By nature, humans are exploratory and curious. For  thousands of years, our ancestors have gazed up at the night sky and been amazed at the countless objects shining in the night sky. Being the closest body to Earth, the moon appears bright and bigger than any other object in the night sky. Our ancestors watched in awe and even idolized it. However, as we learned more and more about it,  the moon  has evolved from being a mystical God to a life-less wasteland. Despite having lost  hope of finding life on the moon, scientist’s recent discovery will reshape the way we view the moon in human space exploration for generations to come. 

On October 26th, Nasa’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope mounted on a Boeing 747, confirmed the presence of water on the sunlit surface of the moon on the southern hemisphere in the Clavius Crater. Prior to this confirmation, some form of hydrogen had been detected on the moon’s surface, however, scientists weren’t able to distinguish whether it was  really water or some other  form of molecule like Hydroxyl. Water concentrations in the area could be as high as 100 to 412 parts per million, about a 12-ounce water bottle per cubic meter of lunar soil. This is definitely not a significant amount of water, the sahara for comparison, has a water concentration 100 times greater than that of the lunar surface. Despite being a small amount, this discovery brings new questions about  the resistance of water in harsh space conditions and its formation in space.  Water is a highly valuable resource for space exploration as it is essential for life as we know it.  Today it costs roughly about $10,000 to get 1 pound of payload up in Earth orbit, extremely expensive but getting better. Finding water on the Lunar surface means we won’t have to use this valuable space and weight for water in future missions. This also means there is a chance it can be found in other harsh environments in other non- terrestrial objects. Prior to this discovery, it was believed water would not be able to survive the harsh environments of the sunlit surface of the moon due to the constant exposure to ionizing radiation in space. This discovery supported the possibility there may be water in other harsh and remote regions of our solar system. 

The discovery of water molecules has sparked excitement in the scientific community due to the many implications it may have on future space exploration. “Under NASA’s Artemis program, the agency is eager to learn all it can about the presence of water on the moon in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the Lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.” Establishing the very first permanent human presence in an out of Earth, non- man made object, is an amazing step towards exploring the entirety of our solar system and the advancement of our society into a stellar civilization in the far future. Having a moon base that can supply us with water which can be transformed into oxygen, rocket fuel and drinkable water means safer, faster and more efficient space travel. Establishing a moon base means colonizing Mars might not be too far off into the future. 

SOFIA’s discovery of water on the moon has not only confirmed water on the moon, but it has confirmed we have yet to discover many things about space. As the only life in the Universe we know of,  it is our duty to explore its vast wonders not only to ensure the survival of our species, but to advance our civilization into levels we’ve never even imagined.