Luckily, the other paper used new theoretical models, based on temperature data and higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, to refine predictions of where conditions are right for molecular water to be trapped as ice. They used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy telescope, an infrared instrument mounted in a converted Boeing 747 that cruises at about 14,000 meters, to look for infrared light at a wavelength emitted by water molecules.
NASA has announced it has found definitive evidence of water on the moon, and that there are a number of "water traps" that could hold it there with stability in greater amounts than they'd previously thought.
The Moon was believed to be arid and inhospitable.
The water molecules - consisting of one oxygen and two hydrogen molecules - were detected via SOFIA's infrared spectrometer.
The researchers suggest that Water was created by the impact of meteorites popping against the surface of the moon. Second, although the amount of water found is a small amount, it raises the question of how water is created, stored, and persists on a rough airless surface such as the moon.
- NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a leader journey carrying a crew to Mars.
The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment.
"However, don't expect to find hidden glaciers or ice caps", cautions Richard de Grijs, an astrophysicist at Australia's Macquarie University who was not involved in the study.
"We're talking about minuscule water ice grains contained in glassy beads which were most likely formed through the continuous bombardment of the Moon's surface by micro-meteorites".
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"Prior to the SOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration", said Dr. Casey Honniball, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Yet those missions were unable to definitively distinguish the form in which it was present - either H2O or its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). While that is good news in general for the progress of science and space research, why is the rediscovery of water particles on the moon such a big deal?
"This indicates that water might be distributed across the lunar surface", NASA tweeted on Monday from its moon-related account.
NASA plans to launch a water-seeking rover named Viper to the moon's south pole by the end of 2022.
The announcement comes as Nasa's Artemis programme aims to send the first woman and next man to the Moon's surface in 2024. "Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there".
Although water on the sunlit portion of the moon remains more of a mystery, water in the shadows is easier to explain.
Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water. At both the North and South pole, the percentage of those areas rises sharply, while there's practically no such areas much below 70 degrees.
As released in a live conference Monday morning, NASA revealed the news saying the discovery brings the idea forth that water may be distributed across various areas of the surface of the Moon, rather than exclusively in the shadowed, cold areas. "Bringing only the bare necessities as you leave Earth and picking up your supplies there would make it far easier and cheaper to get astronauts off the ground".