Scientists say the moon’s shadowed, frigid nooks and crannies may hold frozen water in more places and in larger quantities than previously suspected.
That’s good news for astronauts at future lunar bases who could tap into these resources for drinking and making rocket fuel.
In a pair of studies published Monday, scientists say more than 15,400 square miles of lunar terrain can trap water in the form of ice. That’s 20% more area than previously thought. These ice-rich zones are near the moon’s north and south poles.
Dr. Naseem Rangwala is the NASA project scientist for the SOFIA airborne observatory credited with the discovery.
“We are very excited that these follow-up observations will look for water in more sunlit locations to better understand how water is created, stored and moved across the lunar surface over time,” Rangwala said.
Another NASA scientist on the call, Dr. Jacob Bleacher, touched on the importance of water for the agency’s exploration plans.
“Understanding where the water is on the moon will help us prepare to send astronauts to the lunar south pole for the Artemis program,” Bleacher said.
Temperatures are so low that the water could have been trapped there for millions or even billions of years.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted about the discovery.
“We confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon for the 1st time using @SOFIAtelescope,” Bridenstine tweeted. “We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the Moon is key for our #Artemis exploration plans.”
Earlier, NASA tweeted, “Happy Monday, skygazers! We’re heading into the week with some fascinating news from @SOFIAtelescope about our brilliant beautiful Moon!”