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Water sources discovered on the Moon

A study signed by Chinese researchers and published by the journal Nature Geoscience shows that the surface of the moon contains water in “glass beads” that were formed following the violent impact with space rocks. The data was collected by the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 5. “There is no doubt that most of the surface of the moon contains water in one form or another,” said the study by Chinese scientists, published on Monday, March 27, by the journal Nature Geoscience. Researchers examined in detail about 100 tiny glass spheres, ranging in size from a hair to a millimeter thick, brought to Earth in 2020 by the Chang’e 5 mission. These formations are up to two billion years old and were apparently created by the impact of meteoroids (meteorites or asteroids) that melted the lunar material.

The team led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences believes that the glass spheres formed during the impact of a meteoroid would have initially lost most of their water. These “glass beads” were then “bombarded” by the solar winds, which supplied them with hydrogen. And, in combination with the oxygen atoms contained in these formations, the first water molecules appeared on the Moon. “The moon is constantly bombarded with impactors, for example micrometeoroids and large meteoroids, which produce glass beads,” said planetary scientist Sen Hu from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. According to estimates based on the study of soil samples brought back to Earth by the American Apollo missions, the lunar soil is composed of 3–5% glass spheres. “Water is the most sought-after product to enable sustainable exploration of planetary surfaces. “Knowing how water is produced and stored near the lunar surface will be very useful for future explorers who will be able to extract it and use it for exploration,” Hu said. Meanwhile, the Americans are focusing on sources of water in the form of ice, the existence of which has been confirmed at the South Pole of the Moon and which could be turned into fuel. The space agency NASA has planned for 2024 a mission with a robot, VIPER, whose purpose is to study the concentration of ice in that region. The capsule that brought the lunar soil samples to Earth landed in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China. About 1.7 kg of soil was collected during the Chang’e-5 mission, with 32 glass spheres being analyzed in this study from the small amount of soil made available for this research, Hu said. The Chang’e-5 mission was the first to collect samples of lunar soil since the Soviet Union brought about 170 grams to Earth in 1976. The United States managed to bring back 382 kg of samples from the lunar surface during the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972.

By Cora Sulleyman

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