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We Just Found Water on the Moon’s Sunlit Surface

We Just Found Water on the Moon’s Sunlit Surface

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When the first Apollo astronauts returned from the Moon in 1969, the Moon’s surface was thought to be completely dry. Over the last 20 years, orbital and impactor missions confirmed water ice is present inside dark, permanently shadowed craters around the poles. But could water survive in the Moon’s sunnier regions?

Using SOFIA, the world’s largest flying observatory, we found water on a sunlit lunar surface for the first time. The discovery suggests water may be distributed across the Moon’s surface, which is a whopping 14.6 million square miles. Scientists think the water could be stored inside glass beadlike structures within the soil that can be smaller than the tip of a pencil. The amount of water detected is equivalent to about a 12-ounce bottle trapped in a cubic meter volume of soil. While that amount is 100 times less than what’s found in the Sahara Desert, discovering even small amounts raises new questions about how this precious resource is created and persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface. Learn more about the discovery: 

Water was found in Clavius Crater, one of the Moon’s largest craters visible from Earth.

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The water may be delivered by tiny meteorite impacts… 

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…or formed by the interaction of energetic particles ejected from the Sun. 

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Follow-up observations by SOFIA will look for water in additional sunlit locations on the Moon.

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We are eager to learn all we can about the presence of water in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 under our Artemis program. What we learn on and around the Moon will help us take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

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