NASA scientists used a robotic spacecraft and a Boeing 747SP plane modified with a special telescope to detect water on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time. This discovery indicates water could be more widespread than previously thought, and it allows for NASA’s return of humans to the lunar surface via the Artemis program by 2024

Two studies were published in the journal Nature Astronomy Monday morning, describing how NASA detected “widespread hydration” on the lunar surface. The research is based on data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as the agency’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy airborne telescope, also known as SOFIA, mounted within a heavily modified Boeing 747. 

Boeing 747SP

The first study, titled “Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA,” detected water molecules on the lunar surface. 

The second study, titled “Micro cold traps on the Moon,” found “water ice is thought to be trapped in large permanently shadowed regions in the Moon’s polar regions, due to their extremely low temperatures.” Using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, lead planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder, discovered “small-scale shadows in the polar regions, which we term ‘micro cold traps,’ substantially augment the cold-trapping area of the Moon, and may also influence the transport and sequestration of water.” 

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbor water ice,” Hayne said, who was quoted by Reuters.”Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract, and analyze.”

The findings were also released during a NASA press conference that began around lunchtime on Monday.  

“For the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on the sunlit surface of the moon,” CNN quoted Hayne at Monday’s press conference. 

Findings Are Discussed At NASA’s Press Conference 

The water found on the Moon might be challenging to extract. We noted, by 4Q22, NASA is planning to send an ice-mining drill rig to the south pole of the moon to extract “water ice.” 

NASA is planning to return humans, or to be politically correct this time, land the first women on the Moon in 2024 as part of its Artemis program. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released a statement last month, announcing the new mission to put a human back on the lunar surface would be the first time since 1972.

Astronauts’ ability to harvest water on the Moon is essential for their survival as the US prepares to erect a moon base this decade, with the prospects of moon mining rare materials by 2025. 



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