Science & Technology

We Asked a NASA Scientist: Is There Water on the Moon?

The image shows the distribution of surface ice at the Moon’s south pole (left) and north pole (right), detected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument. Blue represents the ice locations, plotted over an image of the lunar surface, where the gray scale corresponds to surface temperature (darker representing colder areas and lighter shades indicating warmer zones). The ice is concentrated at the darkest and coldest locations, in the shadows of craters. This was the first time scientists directly observed definitive evidence of water ice on the Moon’s surface. Credits: NASA

Is there water on the Moon?

Actually, yes. But not like we experience here on Earth. On the Moon, water is found all over the surface, but it’s mainly in the form of ice and not pools of liquid water. Some places have more water than others. At the poles of the Moon are areas that never receive any sunlight, and so they’re extremely cold. We call these permanently shadowed regions, and there could be a lot of ice inside them. The ice inside these regions may be mixed in with the lunar soil, buried deep below the surface, or it could be a sheet of ice.

Outside these extremely cold places is much less water, but it’s still there. Surfaces on the Moon that do see sunlight experience extreme temperature changes of 300 Celsius. This makes it hard for water to survive on the sunlit Moon, but the water that does survive is unlike any water we experience here on Earth.

But what does that mean? Imagine you have a handful of sand and you spread the grains of sand out so far that no grain touches another grain. An individual grain of sand represents a single molecule of water. And this is what we observe on the sunlit surface of the Moon. The sunlit Moon, however, has 100 times less water than the Sahara Desert, but the poles of the Moon may contain tons of ice.

So, is there water on the Moon? Yes. And one day, future astronauts may be able to harvest this water and use it for drinkable water, breathable oxygen or rocket fuel to take us farther out into our solar system. Harvesting this water is a critical component of future human deep space exploration, which is why our VIPER rover will be traveling to the Moon’s South Pole to search for ice and other potential resources and determine where they came from.

Is there water on the Moon? Yes! But you won’t find pools of liquid H2O on the lunar surface — water on the Moon is mostly in the form of ice. Harvesting this water is a critical component of future human deep space exploration, which is why our golf cart-sized VIPER, or the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will be traveling to the Moon’s South Pole to search for ice and other potential resources to determine where they came from. Explore more about this first-of-its-kind rover. Credit: NASA

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please stop the adblocker for your browser to view this page.