Researchers have found definitive evidence that water ice does exist on the moon. The researchers also said that there’s in fact more water than earlier thought. For the last few years, a lot of research on the moon has largely been focusing on identifying signs of water. This new discovery is significant and could massively change future long-term missions to the moon. In addition to this, for most space optimists, the discovery of water provides a very important foundation for supporting life in the lunar habitat. Water could be used to support the growth of plants as well as other essential uses for humans.
But there are other more complex uses such as making rocket propellant. The propellants used by rockets are largely made using hydrogen and oxygen. These are also the two components that make up water. Making the rocket propellant on site at the moon could significantly reduce the overall cost of doing ambitious missions on the moon. At the moment, rockets have to carry the propellant they need for missions. This limits the amount of distance they can go. In fact, the propellant makes the biggest share of a rocket’s weight.
Getting something into space is not easy. You need to overcome gravity on your way to orbit and this requires a lot of energy. The deeper astronauts want to get into space, the more propellant they’ll need and this costs more. Also, let’s not forget that there’s also a limit to the amount of propellant a rocket can carry. However, if there could be a way to refill your gas tank on the moon, astronauts would have the chance to do deeper space explorations. Besides, transporting the propellants from the moon to other places in space is not as hard or as expensive as moving it from Earth. The gravity in the moon is very low and scientists estimate that it’s just a sixth of the Earth’s gravitational force. With this little resistance, it will take less energy to get propellant into other stations in space with less money.
Turning lunar water into rocket propellant is something that many scientists have dreamed about. NASA has also done a number of missions and experiments to identify the amount of water available and where exactly it’s located. It was earlier thought that the areas around the moon’s poles held the biggest promise. After all, the sun doesn’t reach these poles. The temperatures there are below -250 degrees Fahrenheit so it’s plausible that if there’s water on the moon it will be located in these places.
At one point, NASA rammed one of its rockets into these poles to try to see what kind of debris would come off. Analysis showed that 5% of this debris was actually ice. However, this recent discovery simply shows that there’s more water in more places on the moon than earlier predicted. The big question now is how to extract it and process it to ensure that it’s safe for human use. This will likely be a very high tech expensive process but it could be well worth it in the long run.