For the first time, scientists have mapped the distribution of water across lunar soil. Scientists calibrated data collected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper to determine how much water and hydroxyl, a related molecule, is present beneath the lunar surface.
“The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as previously reported,” said lead author Shuai Li, former PhD student at Brown University and currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP). “The amount of water increases toward the poles and does not show significant difference among distinct compositional terrains.”
The water concentration reaches a maximum average of around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher latitudes. That is less than what is found in the sands of Earth’s driest deserts, researchers said.
“Now that we have these quantitative maps showing where the water is and in what amounts, we can start thinking about whether or not it could be worthwhile to extract, either as drinking water for astronauts or to produce fuel,” said Ralph Milliken, associate professor at Brown University and Li’s co-author.