With its launch on October 21, 2008, the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 carried NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper with it to the lunar surface. Using the newly calibrated data from the mapper, scientists have successfully created the first ever global map of water in the Moon’s surface soil.
This study which was published in the journal Science Advances builds on the initial discovery of water and a related molecule-hydroxyl, which consists of one atom each of oxygen and hydrogen, where the water contains two molecules of hydrogen with one molecule of oxygen. Water was first discovered on the surface of the moon in the year 2009.
As described by the study’s lead author Shuai Li, who performed the study as a Ph.D. student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, the United States, the signature of water is present everywhere on the lunar surface and not just limited to the Polar Regions contrary to the previous conclusions. He further stated that the amount of water increases towards the poles and doesn’t show significant difference among the distinct compositional terrains. Mr. Li is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii.
But the thought of surviving on the amount of water present on the lunar surface is yet a far fetched dream as the maximum average of the water on the moon is around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher altitudes. As compared to Earth it is too little as the driest deserts of our blue planet have more water as compared to that of moon’s surface. But something is better than nothing and this is just a start. This is just a road map to where water exists on the surface of the Moon and there is more to be discovered.
According to the co-author of the study Ralph Milliken, associate professor at Brown University, these quantitative maps show the amount of water and its location and now researchers can start working on its practical applications, either as drinking water for astronauts or to produce fuel.
The water distribution across the natural satellite is more or less uniform than splotchy and it gradually decreases towards the equator. Although much of the water mapped in this study could be attributed to solar winds, there were exceptions like higher than average concentration of water was found in the lunar volcanic deposits near the moon’s equator. In spite of coming from the solar winds, the water near these volcanoes comes from within the Moon’s mantle and has erupted towards the surface in lunar magma.