New research has revealed that the Moon holds more water in its interior than we originally believe—reviving its natural potential as an important space resource for humans.
The study examined a substance on the Moon called pyroclastic deposits, which are made of volcanic glass beads formed during ancient explosive eruptions, Wired notes. Scientists now believe these beads contain water in addition to elements like iron and titanium. That water could potentially be extracted by astronauts on the Moon.
Because of the impact that formed the moon, scientists have long presumed there would be little to no water in it. That perspective began to shift when professor Alberto Saal of Brown University studied volcanic glass beads in 2008, brought back from the Moon by the Apollo mission. At the time, the question at hand was whether the water in the glass beads represented the interior of the Moon or if they just happened to contain water.
The newer research used satellite data to study more of the Moon’s surface, discovering water-rich pyroclastic deposits spread across it.
“The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the Moon s wet,” Ralph Milliken, a lead researcher of the study, notes.
“The water somehow had to survive [it’s formation] process or, and perhaps more likely, the water was delivered to the Earth-Moon system by water-rich asteroids and comets after the impact event but before the Moon had completely cooled down and solidified,” Milliken told WIRED.
He believes the most exciting part of the discovery is the potential use for humans.
“Water is heavy and expensive to carry with you from Earth, so any water that can be extracted at the lunar surface is a huge help for developing a sustained presence beyond Earth,” he concluded.