Scientists have found irrefutable evidence for the presence of water on the moon, NASA reports Monday.
Although these are very small quantities, the American space organization mentions an important discovery for future (manned) space missions.
Dutch experts say in conversation with NU.nl that NASA is, however, adding to the latter considerably.
Scientists have known for some time that water can be found on the moon.
For example, moon rocks taken by astronauts from the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s were found to contain traces of water, and two years ago, moon researchers found evidence of the presence of water ice in deep craters at the moon's poles.
NASA has now also measured the presence of water on the moon for the first time with an infrared telescope.
The researchers say they have strong indications that these are tiny particles of water, probably stored in glass or between grains on the moon's surface that prevent the water from evaporating from the sun.
To arrive at their findings, the researchers used a NASA Boeing 747 equipped with an infrared telescope.
Normally focusing on distant galaxies, this flying telescope detected the presence of H2O molecules, or water, around the south pole of the moon.
The research was published Monday in the scientific journal
'Astronauts will not get water from grains'
Planetary geologist Wim van Westrenen, who has researched lunar water himself, is not very impressed with the research results.
"This is about water molecules in grains of moon sand, not for example ice."
According to Van Westrenen, NASA would very much like to link the discovery to the space program Artemis, with which the space agency wants to put people, including the first woman, on the moon again in four years.
"I find that a politically useful, but scientifically weak link. Astronauts will not go and collect water molecules that are trapped in pieces of glass or between grains. They are more likely to retrieve large blocks of ice from the shadow of cold craters on the moon."
Astronomer Rens Waters agrees that the discovered water molecules are not suitable for future space travel.
In fact, "You're not going to get a drop of water out of these stones," he says.
Nevertheless, he calls the discovery "great fun".
"Scientifically it is always fascinating when water is found somewhere in the solar system. Even if it is just a little bit and the moon is still completely dry," said Waters.
NASA's Boeing 747SP. The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has a hatch on the side containing an infrared telescope. The
NASA's Boeing 747SP.
The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has a hatch on the side containing an infrared telescope.
aircraft can fly high in the stratosphere.
See also: 50 years after the first moon landing: What did it actually yield?