The water is inside the glass beads found on the lunar surface
Impact glass crystals found on the moon’s surface contain water inside, a group of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered. This could make the moon a large reservoir of water that could accumulate between 270,000 and 300,000 million tons of this valuable liquid on its surface.
This discovery is the result of an analysis of lunar soil samples that China collected on a robotic mission in 2020 the fifth Chinese mission to the moon, the so-called Chang’e 5 mission.
The scientist Sen Hu, the co-author of the study that has now been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, explained that the pearls are produced when the drops of molten rock from the meteorites crystallize, and generate water, due to the high temperatures generated by the impact with the lunar surface.
The researchers have stressed that finding water on the surface of the moon is vitally important for future explorations, especially to be able to power long-term missions. In addition, they have also assessed the possibility of obtaining the water that the glass beads store from their heating.
The third country with samples of the moon
Chang’e 5 was the first Chinese mission to get lunar samples. Two kilograms of rock and soil were collected using a robotic arm and a drill that drilled up to two meters below the surface. China is thus the third country to collect samples from the Moon; previously it had been done by the United States and the Soviet Union.
This mission also left an image for history. Before taking off, the ship itself planted a Chinese flag, becoming the second country to plant the flag after the United States did so in 1969 and 1972. Anyway, the flag planting was very different because a manned mission has never been sent there yet.
Besides Chang’e 5, China has sent four other missions to the moon with the same name, in homage to the moon goddess in Chinese mythology: the first two missions orbited the moon and the next two landed there.
Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019, a feat that had never been achieved before. Its goal is to send a manned mission there in 2030, as a first step to reaching Mars.
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Water as seen through a telescope
At the end of 2020, NASA already confirmed that it had found water on the surface of the moon with research done on the basis of images taken by a telescope on the visible face of the satellite.
At that time they realized that the amount of water was very small. NASA itself said that there was a hundred times more water in the Sahara desert than what had been detected on the Moon. A figure very different from that pointed out by the Chinese study.
At the time, there were also many questions, such as whether the water could be easily accessed or whether it could be used for future manned missions, but this week’s Chinese discovery provides relevant information.