Existence of ice on the Moon confirmed | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 22.08.2018
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Science

Existence of ice on the Moon confirmed

A 2017 study had shown that the Moon's mantle could have water concentrations similar to those of the Earth's mantle. Now data from a NASA probe confirmed the assumption. Good news for future Moon missions!

Spectral satellite view of the moon surface (picture alliance/dpa/Milliken lab/Brown University)

Confirmed water reservoirs are marked in blue on this satellite picture.

New NASA data proves: There is frozen ice on the moon. Data from the US space agency's Moon research instrument M3 has revealed three chemical signatures that definitely prove the results of an earlier study based on data from the Indian spacecraft "Chandrayann-1."

According to the original study, there is a similar concentration of water in the Moon's mantle as in the Earth's mantle, which is located below the Earth's crust and could contain as much water as all our oceans combined.

For a long time the moon was considered a very dry celestial body. According to the study published by Ralph Milliken and Shuai Li in the journal "Nature Geoscience" on July 24 2017, the history of the formation of the Moon, which was previously considered probable, cannot be correct.

According to this, the Moon had been separated from the young Earth by a collision with a celestial body about the size of Mars. Such a collision would have generated so much heat that anywater on the Moon would have had to evaporate.

Read more: Parker Solar Probe: Diving into the solar atmosphere

Moon surface "scanned" for water

Milliken and Li were able to search large parts of the Moon's surface for water deposits with an elaborate analysis.

Their results showed that water-containing glass spheres of Moon samples from an Apollo mission do not represent any local peculiarities and "that the ubiquitous presence of water in pyroclastic deposits [a mixture of solids and gases that is formed during volcanic activity] is further evidence that the Moon's mantle is an important water reservoir," the authors write in their study.

In 2008, investigations of lunar rock samples from the last Apollo mission had already proven the existence of water in volcanic glass spheres. In 2009, ice was also discovered by a targeted impact of an old rocket stage on the Moon. 

Read more:Longest 'blood moon' of century coincides with chance to see Mars at nearest

Where does the water come from?

But where the moonwater comes from is still unresolved.

"The increasing evidence for water in the Moon suggests that either the water somehow survived or that it was brought along shortly after the collision of asteroids or comets before the Moon solidified completely," Li explained.

The two researchers believe that the water deposits on the Moon could have practical benefits for the exploration of the Earth's satellite. After all, the volcanic samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions contain 0.5 per mille of water - and that could potentially be extracted.

"Everything that saves future Moon researchers the need to bring plenty of water from home is a big step forward," said Li.

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