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Water on the Moon

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

Water on the Moon:


Context:

Water molecules, discovered in Clavius Crater in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.

  • And it is the first time water has been detected on the sunlit side, showing it is not restricted to the shadowy regions.
  • This was confirmed by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Significance of the discovery:

Apart from being a marker of potential life, water is a precious resource in deep space.

  • For astronauts landing on the Moon, water is necessary not only to sustain life but also for purposes such as generating rocket fuel.
  • If space explorers can use the Moon’s resources, it means they need to carry less water from Earth.

How could the water have formed?

  • Space rocks carrying small amounts of water could have bombarded the Moon.
  • Alternatively, the Sun’s solar wind could have carried hydrogen, which then reacted with minerals in the lunar soil to create hydroxyl, which later transformed into water.

About SOFIA:

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner that flies at altitudes up to 45,000 feet.

It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center.

  • It has an infrared camera that picks up the wavelength unique to water molecules.
  • SOFIA’s mission is to look at dark and distant objects. The Moon, on the other hand, is so close and bright that it fills the SOFIA guide camera’s entire field of view.

Chandrayaan-1 and water discovery:

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 mission has already provided evidence for the existence of water.

  • In 2009, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard Chandrayaan-1 found water molecules in the polar regions.

What next?

SOFIA will look for water in additional sunlit locations to learn more about how the water is produced, stored, and moved across the Moon.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will carry out a mission to create the first water resource maps of the Moon.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Important Craters on the Moon.
  2. About NASA’s VIPER.
  3. Chandrayaan 1.
  4. SOFIA.

Mains Link:

Apart from being a marker of potential life, water is a precious resource in deep space. Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express.