China discovers signs of water in the "ocean of storms" on the moon's surface

Chinese scientists have discovered signs of water in samples mined by China from a lava plain on the moon's surface, bringing them closer to understanding its origin there, an important question for future lunar exploration.

In a research paper published in the journal Nature this week, the scientists said they analyzed solid remnants of lava excavated by a Chinese unmanned mission from the plain known as the "Storm Ocean" and found evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl encapsulated in a crystalline mineral known as apatite.

Hydroxyl, which consists of one hydrogen and one oxygen versus two hydrogen and one oxygen atom in a water molecule, has also been found in samples extracted by NASA decades ago.

It was widely believed that most of the water on the Moon was the result of chemical processes caused by the explosion of charged particles from the Sun on the Moon's surface.

The scientists said the source of the hydroxyl found in minerals such as apatite is very likely to be original.

"The hydroxyl contents of the foreign materials resulting from the collision processes may be negligible," they added.

They said the Chinese samples indicated that little or no hydroxyl in them was from "external sources".

China's Chang'e-5 mission returned to Earth 1,731 grams of samples in December 2020 after extracting soil and rocks from a previously unvisited part of the Okeanus Brucellarum plain.

China is expected to send more lunar missions without astronauts in the coming years, and one of its goals will be the study of water.

The presence of water on the moon could shed more light on the evolution of the solar system.

It can also point the way to the site's water resources, which is vital to any long-term habitation of humans.

"The sources and distribution of water on the moon is still an unanswered question," the scientists said.

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