The findings are based on 32 glass beads randomly selected from lunar dust collected by China’s Chang’e 5 mission in 2020.
A team of scientists has discovered a new renewable source of water on the Moon after analyzing samples collected by a Chinese mission, reveals a new study published Monday by Nature.
The findings are based on 32 randomly selected glass beads from lunar dust brought back to Earth by the Chang’e 5 mission in December 2020. These tiny glass balls scattered across the surface of our satellite potentially harbor billions of tons of water that could be used by astronauts on lunar missions or to support future bases.
Despite their small size, estimated to be from a hair to several hairs wide, researchers say there are so many on the Moon that their numbers will be enough to extract water in large volumes.
This shows that “water can be recharged on the surface of the Moon… a new water reservoir on the Moon,” Hejiu Hui, a researcher at Nanjing University who participated in the study, told AP.
“This is going to open up new avenues that many of us have been thinking about,” said Mahesh Anand, professor of planetary science and exploration at the Open University in the UK, who also analyzed the samples. “If you can extract the water and concentrate it in significant quantities, it’s up to you how you use it,” he told The Guardian.
How are these crystal balls formed?
The water appears to form under the influence of the solar wind, when high-energy particles emanating from the sun strike molten droplets. The water is trapped in the pearls, but can be released by heating the materialwhich could possibly be done by future robotic missions.
These beads could continuously produce water thanks to the constant bombardment of hydrogen in the solar wind, which would confirm the active cycle of water on the Moon. According to Professor Sen Hu, co-lead author of the study, these pearls could also store and release water on other airless celestial bodies in the solar system. However, the scientists stress that more research is needed to determine if the water that would be extracted would be safe to drink.