Lunar water could come from Earth’s atmosphere

Not all of the moon’s water comes from its own surface; part of it is sealed off from Earth’s atmosphere, according to new research by Scientists at the University of Alaska’s Fairbanks Geophysical Institute published last month.

Water present for future lunar explorers

That’s good news for NASA’s Project Artemis, the planned long-term human presence on the moon, which will rely heavily on the moon’s water supply.

“As NASA’s Artemis team plans to build a base camp at the south pole of the Moon, water ions that appeared many eons ago on Earth can be used in the astronauts’ life support system. “, said Gunther Kletetschka, associate research professor at the UAF Geophysical Institute. statement.

The researcher and his team estimated that the moon’s polar regions could contain up to 3,500 cubic kilometers – 840 cubic miles – or more of surface permafrost or underground liquid water. These deposits, they further speculate, were not created locally, but rather emerged from ions that escaped Earth’s atmosphere.

Kletetschka and his colleagues suggest that hydrogen and oxygen ions are deposited on the moon as it passes through the tail of Earth’s magnetosphere. These findings are further confirmed by recent measurements by several space agencies – NASA, European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Indian Space Research Organization – which revealed a large amount of ions forming water present during the transit of the moon through this part of the magnetosphere.

Many water sources

That’s not the only way the moon has accumulated water, though. Some of them are believed to have deposited by asteroids and comets that collided with the Moon during a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment around 3.5 billion years ago.

Additionally, the solar wind is also a source of water on the moon because it carries oxygen and hydrogen ions, which may have combined and deposited as water molecules. No matter where it’s from, the fact that there’s water on the moon is good news for space explorers.

The study is published in the journal Scientific reports.


Our Moon periodically moves through Earth’s magnetic tail which contains terrestrial ions of hydrogen and oxygen. A possible density contrast may have been discovered which may be consistent with the presence of an aqueous phase of potential terrestrial origin. Using new gravity aspects (descriptors) derived from the harmonic potential coefficients of the Moon’s gravity field, we discovered gravity strike angle anomalies that point to aqueous phase locations in the polar regions of the moon. Our analysis suggests that impact cratering processes were responsible for a specific pore space network that was subsequently filled with water-phase fill volumes of permafrost in the lunar subsurface. In this work we suggest the accumulation of up to ~3000 km3 of the Earth’s water phase (Earth’s atmospheric escape) now filling the wide-pore regolith, part of which is distributed along the impact zones of the Moon’s polar regions. These unique locations serve as potential resource utilization sites for future landings and habitat exploration (eg, NASA’s Artemis Plan targets).

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