China’s Chang’e 5 rover has found tiny glass beads containing water in an impact crater on the Moon. Samples taken during a mission in 2020 found pearls with water content as high as 2,000 parts per million (PPM). Given the prevalence of these glass spheres on the lunar surface, it can be enough to supply 71 trillion gallons of water.
Some pearls were formed when asteroids collided with the Moon millions of years ago, while others came from ancient volcanoes. Scientists believe the water came from a chemical reaction when hydrogen ions emitted by the sun – carried to the lunar surface by solar winds – combined with oxygen atoms inside the beads. The water-filled beads are tiny, ranging from “tens of micrometers to a few millimeters”. Still, there’s enough on the Moon’s surface to (theoretically) supply about 270 trillion kilograms of water, enough to fill 100 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
However, scientists haven’t figured out how to collect them yet, and they would need to heat them to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit to extract the water. Still, they could be a resource for future lunar colonies, where astronauts could use the water for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, and even producing rocket fuel.
Scientists think other moons in our solar system may have similar beads. “Our direct measurements of this surface reservoir of lunar water show that beads of impact glass can store substantial amounts of solar wind-derived water on the moon and suggest that impact glass may be reservoirs of ‘water on other airless bodies,’ the study authors said. writing. “The presence of water, stored in impact glass beads, is consistent with remote sensing of water in the lower latitude regions of the Moon, Vesta and Mercury. Our findings indicate that the glasses of he impact on the surface of airless bodies in the solar system are able to store water derived from the solar wind and release it into space.
Glass beads are not our first glimpse of water on the Moon. In 2009, NASA crashed a probe into Cabeus Crater which led to the detection of water; in 2018, NASA found direct evidence ice deposits in the permanently shadowed craters of the Moon at its north and south poles. Nasa And China / Russia plan to install lunar bases at the south pole of the Moon within the next decade; the competing initiatives both hope to have habitable bases ready by the early 2030s.
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