NASA finds best evidence yet that there is water ice on the Moon (2023)

NASA has the best evidence yet that there is water on the Moon — and it appears far more abundant and more accessible than scientists first realized.

Trapped in ice, the evidence offers welcome justification for NASA’s ambitious program to not only return humans to the Moon by 2024, but to also establish a long-term, manned lunar base operating on a similar basis to the International Space Station.

As part of NASA's upcoming Artemis mission, the space agency wants to build a permanent lunar base on the Moon that will help astronauts reach further destinations like Mars. However, in order to do that, future astronauts would need to find resources on the Moon that can help accommodate their stay. Chief among them: water.

In a pair of studies published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists report both the 'unambigious' detection of molecular water and small, icy water traps that are much more spread out across the lunar surface than previously believed.

(Video) More water and ice found on the moon, NASA says

In terms of the exact amount of water found, Casey Honniball, one of the scientists who took part in the research and a postdoctoral fellow at NASA, said: "The amount of water is roughly equivalent to a 12 ounce bottle of water within a cubic meter of lunar soil." However it is important to note that the water is seemingly distributed across the lunar surface, and there may be differences across regions, she added. Honniball made the comments during a press conference to announce the discovery Monday.

A watery world —In 2018, scientists discovered evidence of water ice on the Moon's surface, mainly at lunar crater in the Moon's southern pole. Some of the water ice was also apparent at the northern pole, where temperatures never reach above -250 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the new discovery find ice water may be much more abundant across the lunar surface —occupying an area some 40,000 km squared, or about the same area as the country of Switzerland. Importantly, water also appears to exist in areas lit by sunlight —a key distinction from the implication of the 2018 results that water existed only in extremely cold, dark regions on the Moon.

Paul Hayne, a researcher at the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, and lead author of one of the new studies, noticed cold shadows in images of the Moon collected by NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter and decided to investigate it further.

"If you could keep zooming in forever, at one point would you stop seeing those shadows," Hayne tells Inverse.

(Video) NASA Scientist Finally Confirms the Presence of Water on the Moon!

By further analyzing the image, the team behind the new study discovered that besides the large permanently shadowed craters on the Moon, there are tens of billions of other smaller cold traps that had not been mapped before across the lunar surface. Some of these are the size of a penny, the data suggest.

"What surprised us is just the sheer number," Hayne says. "Tens of billions of them and spread out throughout the poles."

The new discovery also showed that these shadowed areas can be found within a centimeter of sun-lit areas on the Moon, meaning that they are a lot more accessible than previously believed.Astronauts may not need to venture to the areas of the Moon where temperatures are freezing.

Instead, they could be standing in the relatively warm sunlit areas and still be able to have access to the frozen water.“It definitely expands the possibilities,” Hayne says. “What this discovery does is also expand the real estate on the lunar surface where a base could be viable.”

The studies also find clear evidence that the signs of water the scientists in 2018 found are indeed water, not of hydroxyls. Hydroxyls are used in household chemicals, like drain cleaner, according to Honniball.

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Humans' future on the Moon —The scientists behind the two studies reinforced the idea that water is "extremely critical" to deep space exploration. It could be used for drinking water, and for other purposes they said. But water is heavy, Jacob Bleacher, a NASA researcher involved in the work, said during the same conference. That makes it hard to transport from Earth to the Moon, or further into space.

"Finding water that is easier to reach is really important to us," Bleacher said.

Knowing how much water is on the Moon, how it is stored, and whether it is replenished over time are important questions to answer for any future human exploration or stays on the Moon, Bleacher added. Ultimately, scientists hope to establish a lunar water resource map, he said.

(Video) Evidence for surface water ice on the Moon

SOFIA, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, was critical to these new results. But SOFIA was not supposed to study the Moon. It was a shock when, during a test, the scientists operating the observatory found these clear signals of water across the Moon's surface, Naseem Rangwala, project scientist for the SOFIA mission, said during the conference.

An important implication of these results is that when planning a future lunar base, scientists may no longer be restricted to exploring the rims of lunar craters previously known to have ice water. Scientists also noted in the press conference that there is likely similar abundance on the far-side of the Moon as seen here on the near-side.

The discovery offers up new questions about how water can persist on the harsh conditions on the lunar surface, Paul Hertz, Astrophysics division director at NASA, added. The Moon has no atmosphere, and the surface is thought entirely inhospitable due to the harmful affects of solar radiation. But the new results suggest lunar water may withstand solar radiation because it is stored in the form of glass-like beads.

If water can persist —and replenish —across the Moon, then it is possible future lunar explorers could mine and use Moon water as we use water here on Earth,from growing crops to drinking cocktails.

Abstract 1: Widespread hydration was detected on the lunar surface through observations of a characteristic absorption feature at 3 µm by three independent spacecraft1,2,3. Whether the hydration is molecular water (H2O) or other hydroxyl (OH) compounds is unknown and there are no established methods to distinguish the two using the 3 µm band4. However, a fundamental vibration of molecular water produces a spectral signature at 6 µm that is not shared by other hydroxyl compounds5. Here, we present observations of the Moon at 6 µm using the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Observations reveal a 6 µm emission feature at high lunar latitudes due to the presence of molecular water on the lunar surface. On the basis of the strength of the 6 µm band, we estimate abundances of about 100 to 400 µg g−1 H2O. We find that the distribution of water over the small latitude range is a result of local geology and is probably not a global phenomenon. Lastly, we suggest that a majority of the water we detect must be stored within glasses or in voids between grains sheltered from the harsh lunar environment, allowing the water to remain on the lunar surface.
Abstract 2: Water ice is thought to be trapped in large permanently shadowed regions in the Moon’s polar regions, due to their extremely low temperatures. Here, we show that many unmapped cold traps exist on small spatial scales, substantially augmenting the areas where ice may accumulate. Using theoretical models and data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we estimate the contribution of shadows on scales from 1 km to 1 cm, the smallest distance over which we find cold-trapping to be effective for water ice. Approximately 10–20% of the permanent cold-trap area for water is found to be contained in these micro cold traps, which are the most numerous cold traps on the Moon. Consideration of all spatial scales therefore substantially increases the number of cold traps over previous estimates, for a total area of ~40,000 km2, about 60% of which is in the south. A majority of cold traps for water ice is found at latitudes > 80° because permanent shadows equatorward of 80° are typically too warm to support ice accumulation. Our results suggest that water trapped at the lunar poles may be more widely distributed and accessible as a resource for future missions than previously thought.


Did NASA discover water ice on the Moon? ›

The Lunar Prospector Mission focused on permanently shadowed craters to look deeper into the discovery and in 1998 found that the largest concentrations of hydrogen exist in the areas of the lunar surface that are never exposed to sunlight. The results indicated water ice at the lunar poles.

What evidence do we have for ice on the Moon? ›

The Moon's surface is continuously bombarded by meteorites and micrometeorites. Many, if not most, of these impactors contain water ice, and the lunar craters show that many of these were very large objects. Any ice which survived impact would be scattered over the lunar surface.

Does the Moon have water frozen as ice? ›

The Moon Has More Water and Ice Hidden All Over Its Surface Than Originally Predicted. For years, scientists have known that water and ice exist on the moon in some form, likely at its poles in deep, dark craters.

Is there water on the moon answer? ›

This is the first time that we've confirmed that the molecules on the sunlit surface of the Moon are H2O.

Did Apollo 15 find ice on the Moon for all mankind? ›

Missing appropriate equipment, Molly was let down to the crater on a makeshift winch from the rover. Just before her oxygene was nearly used up, she successfully found some ice and saved it in a plastic bag to bring it back to Earth.

Did NASA found water in space? ›

Enormous amounts of water, in gaseous form, exist in the vast stellar nurseries of our galaxy. The Hubble Space Telescope peered into the Helix Nebula and found water molecules. Hydrogen and oxygen, formed by different processes, combine to make water molecules in the ejected atmosphere of this dying star.

What evidence do we have for ice on the Moon quizlet? ›

The moon lacks atmosphere and tectonic activity, so its only chance of erosion is collisions with other space objects. What evidence do we have for ice on the Moon? Radar echos found deposits of low density material probably water ice. The lunar prospector mission confirmed the findings and detected large amounts.

Has ice been found in space? ›

Ice Is Found Throughout Our Solar System

Farther out, beginning near the outer asteroid belt, ices were able to condense in the colder reaches of space, forming the cores of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune -- the gas giants -- and their moons.

Is there a moon made of ice? ›

So if we replaced our Moon with Europa, it would appear roughly the same size in the sky as our Moon does, but brighter – much, much brighter. Europa's surface is made of water ice and so it reflects 5.5 times the sunlight than our Moon does.

Is the ice on the Moon drinkable? ›

Biologists believe that the Moon's poles harbours reservoirs of water ice that could be purified as drinking water, converted into breathable oxygen, and used as fuel by astronauts.

Which moon has water ice? ›

Saturn's moon Enceladus is a small, icy body, but Cassini revealed this ocean world to be one of the solar system's most scientifically interesting destinations.

Which moons have water ice? ›

Scientists believe several moons within our solar system have significant subsurface liquid water deposits. Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa are two examples. Both appear to have salty, liquid oceans covered with thick layers of ice at the surface.

What are 3 Moon facts? ›

There is no air to breathe on the Moon. The Moon travels around the Earth in an oval-shaped orbit. Scientists think the Moon was formed long, long ago when Earth crashed into a Mars-sized object. We always see the same side of the Moon from Earth.

Which country found water on Moon? ›

On 18 August 1976, the Soviet Luna 24 probe landed at Mare Crisium, took samples from the depths of 118, 143, and 184 cm of the lunar regolith, and then took them to Earth. In February 1978, it was published that laboratory analysis of these samples shown they contained 0.1% water by mass.

What did NASA find on the Moon? ›

From the Ranger probes, we discovered that craters, those strange holes that pepper the lunar surface, range down in size to the very limits of resolution. Micrometeorite bombardment has ground up the surface rocks, creating a fine powder (called regolith).

How did Apollo 13 not freeze? ›

With the electrical systems turned off, the temperature approached about 34 degrees Fahrenheit prior to entering the atmosphere. “The instruments did not actually 'freeze. ' They were inoperable with the system turned off. They came to life when we powered up the command module just prior to reentry.

What happened on July 15 24 1975? ›

July 15-24 marks the anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the famous “Handshake in Space.” ASTP was the first American-Soviet space flight, docking the last American Apollo spacecraft with the then-Soviet Soyuz spacecraft.

Why did Apollo 13 freeze? ›

Apollo 13's cold, miserable trip home

After they performed a crucial burn to point the spacecraft back towards Earth, the crew powered down every nonessential system in the spacecraft. Without a source of heat, cabin temperatures quickly dropped down close to freezing.

What did NASA found in the ocean? ›

To their amazement, the scientists discovered vibrant ecosystems around the vents, teeming with marine organisms, such as translucent snailfish and amphipods, tiny flea-like crustaceans, that had never been seen before. "With this discovery, we [came across] a whole new way of living on Earth," says Shank.

Is water in space Drinkable? ›

Water is hard to come by, but it is not scarce in the solar system. The moon and Mars both have ice that could theoretically be turned into drinking water. But a more difficult prospect for self-sustainability is food – any food for astronauts needs to be brought from Earth.

Does water freeze in space? ›

Key Takeaways: Would Water Boil or Freeze in Space? Water immediately boils in space or any vacuum. Space does not have a temperature because temperature is a measure of molecule movement.

Where do scientists think that polar water on the Moon came from? ›

The new research estimates the moon's polar regions could hold up to 3,500 cubic kilometers — 840 cubic miles — or more of surface permafrost or subsurface liquid water created from ions that escaped Earth's atmosphere. That's a volume comparable to North America's Lake Huron, the world's eighth-largest lake.

Where has water ice been found on both the Moon and Mercury? ›

The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both worlds.

Is there oxygen in ice on the Moon? ›

These are pretty well-established facts to most scientists. The frozen moon also has oxygen at its surface, another intriguing hint of habitability. The oxygen is generated when sunlight and charged particles from Jupiter strike the moon's surface.

How do we find water on the moon? ›

Analysis of lunar soil samples shows spheres of glass hold water inside them, scientists have said. Scientists say they have discovered water trapped inside tiny beads of glass scattered across the moon, suggesting a potential reservoir of this precious resource for future human activities on the lunar surface.

Has Earth ever had no ice? ›

"In our study, we found that during the Late Cretaceous Period, when carbon dioxide levels were around 1,000 ppm, there were no continental ice sheets on earth. So, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, the Earth will be ice-free once the climate comes into balance with the higher levels."

What planet is frozen? ›

Uranus and Neptune

It's really cold that far away from the Sun. So, these chemicals might be frozen or trapped in crystals of ice. Because of this, Uranus and Neptune are called "ice giants."

How many moons have ice? ›

There are five icy moons in our solar system that could potentially host extraterrestrial life.

What percent of the Moon is ice? ›

The present data suggest that the ice is in the form of small crystals, comprising about 0.3 percent to 1 percent of the moon's rocky soil.

What is the name of the icy moon? ›

Overview. Few worlds in our solar system are as compelling as Saturn's icy ocean moon Enceladus. A handful of worlds are thought to have liquid water oceans beneath their frozen shell, but Enceladus sprays its ocean out into space where a spacecraft can sample it.

Can I drink old moon water? ›

Before complex life evolved on our planet, volcanoes on the Moon spewed water vapor across the lunar surface that likely still exists as frost and ice in its craters. It could be the perfect drinking water for astronauts, say the authors of a new study published this month in The Planetary Science Journal.

Can you boil water on the Moon? ›

On moon, there is less atmospheric pressure and because of this boiling point increases. So water boils at high temperature on the moon.

Can you drink alcohol on the Moon? ›

Alcoholic drinks are generally disallowed in spaceflight, but space agencies have previously allowed its consumption. NASA has been stricter about alcohol consumption than the Roscosmos, both according to regulations and in practice.

What moon holds water? ›

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According to folklore, if the new crescent Moon holds its points upward, able to contain water, you can expect a dry spell. If it stands on its points, expect precipitation to spill out.

What is a snow moon? ›

Why is it called a snow moon? The full moon that occurs in February is referred to as the snow moon because the heaviest snow fall in North America usually occurs during this month. Harsh weather conditions of freezing temperatures, strong winds and heavy snowfall made hunting in these areas very difficult.

Is there a floating water in space? ›

oceans, floating in space, is not easy to comprehend. However, water in space is actually nothing that remarkable. Scientists discovered space water in the Milky Way, albeit in amounts 4000 times less than that present in the newly discovered cloud around the quasar.

What planet has frozen water? ›

Dwarf planet Pluto's surface is covered by a combination of nitrogen-rich ice and water ice. Pluto is thought to have a subsurface ocean about 100 kilometers deep. The surface of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, contains a mixture of ices including water ice.

Is there any planet with water? ›

Like the Earth, this exoplanet has an interior composed of metals and rocks (brown portion), but Kepler-138 d also has a thick layer of high-pressure water in various forms: supercritical and potentially liquid water deep inside the planet and an extended water vapor envelope (shades of blue) above it.

How rare is moon? ›

Turns out it really is odd: Only about one in every 10 to 20 solar systems may harbor a similar moon.

What is a 3 4 moon called? ›

The reason this phase is called the Third Quarter is that the Moon has completed 3/4 of its orbit around the Earth.

What is pink moon facts? ›

Interesting facts about Pink Moon

The Pink Moon is also called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon, because this is when shad, or fish belonging to the herring family, swim upstream to spawn or deposit eggs. The Jews call the Pink Moon the Pesach or Passover Moon.

Did they find water on the moon in 2023? ›

March 27, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Scientists have discovered a new and renewable source of water on the moon for future explorers in lunar samples from a Chinese mission. Water was embedded in tiny glass beads in the lunar dirt where meteorite impacts occur.

Did China detect water on moon? ›

Scientists have discovered a new and renewable source of water on the moon in samples from a Chinese lunar mission. Water was found in tiny glass beads in the lunar dirt where violent meteorite impacts occur. The beads are the width of just hairs, and the water was a small fraction of that.

What is inside the moon? ›

At the center is the Moon's dense, metallic core. The core is largely composed of iron and some nickel. The inner core is a solid mass about 480 km in diameter. Surrounding the solid inner core is a fluid outer core, that brings the total diameter of the core to about 660 km.

What did China find out about the Moon? ›

Scientists found a single crystal of a new phosphate mineral while analyzing lunar basalt particles, which were collected from the moon two years ago by the Chang'e-5 mission.

Why did we stop going to moon? ›

The demise was triggered when, in April 1970, an oxygen tank exploded two days after the launch of the Apollo 13 mission, threatening the lives of the astronauts on board. Missions after Apollo 17 were cancelled. But this was something of a pretext.

Who discovered frozen water on the Moon? ›

NASA sent another orbiter in 1998, called the Lunar Prospector, to find out if the Moon was hiding water ice deposits. Its neutron spectrometer found that the nature of neutrons in the soil of many PSRs corresponded with the presence of hydrogen atoms.

Did they find water ice on Mars? ›

Large amounts of underground ice have been found on Mars; the volume of water detected is equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.

Where was frozen water discovered on the Moon? ›

Molecular water, H2O, was found in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth in the Moon's southern hemisphere.

Did China find water on the Moon? ›

Scientists have discovered a new and renewable source of water on the moon for future explorers in lunar samples from a Chinese mission. Water was embedded in tiny glass beads in the lunar dirt where meteorite impacts occur. These shiny, multicoloured glass beads were in samples returned from the moon by China in 2020.

What have we found on the Moon? ›

From the Ranger probes, we discovered that craters, those strange holes that pepper the lunar surface, range down in size to the very limits of resolution. Micrometeorite bombardment has ground up the surface rocks, creating a fine powder (called regolith).

Have Chinese scientists found water in moon? ›

Chinese scientists have discovered a new water reservoir on the moon in the form of glass beads, which could have major significance for probing the water content of the Earth's only natural satellite and potentially extracting them to support future lunar missions.

Is it safe to drink moon water? ›

Always be safe when making moon water. Make sure your jars are clean and you're using potable water if you intend to drink it. “Label and date your bottles and keep them in the fridge,” says Halley, “Use it up within 1 month. Water can grow bacteria and stagnate, and you don't want that.”

What was recently found on the moon? ›

In the 2000s, a reanalysis of samples from the manned Apollo missions of the late 1960s and 1970s detected hydrogen in the lunar soil. And the recently retired infrared telescope SOFIA confirmed in 2020 that water is present on the moon, even outside the dark craters.

Why did Mars lose its water? ›

Carbon dioxide is a strong greenhouse gas, so it really was the leading candidate to explain the drying out of Mars,” said Kite, an expert on the climates of other worlds.

Can ice exist in space? ›

Interstellar ice consists of grains of volatiles in the ice phase that form in the interstellar medium. Ice and dust grains form the primary material out of which the Solar System was formed. Grains of ice are found in the dense regions of molecular clouds, where new stars are formed.

What was found on the Moon in 2009? ›

September 24, 2009: NASA scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the Moon. Instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small.

Where do scientists think that polar water on the moon came from? ›

The new research estimates the moon's polar regions could hold up to 3,500 cubic kilometers — 840 cubic miles — or more of surface permafrost or subsurface liquid water created from ions that escaped Earth's atmosphere. That's a volume comparable to North America's Lake Huron, the world's eighth-largest lake.


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