One of the key factors in whether we end up colonizing the Moon is how much water is present there already. Water is heavy, so transporting enough of it to the lunar surface from Earth to support life would simply be too expensive. Now a new study funded by the NASA Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research Program is suggesting there's a lot more water on the Moon than we thought.

The study was carried out by researchers at Brown University and provides new evidence that there could be significant deposits of water deep within the lunar interior. In some areas, there could be as much water as that contained within Earth's mantle.

The research team used a combination of satellite data and samples brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to form their conclusions. The volcanic glass beads brought back on those Apollo missions contained trace amounts of water. But the crystalline formations within the beads suggested similar amounts of water as basalts (volcanic rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava) in Earth's mantle.

Water deposits on the Moon

In the image you see above, the colored areas represent elevated water content compared to the surrounding terrain. Yellow and red areas show the richest areas of water.

That on its own isn't enough to prove there's significant deposits of water on the Moon, unless of course the same deposits and conditions are found elsewhere on the lunar surface. That's where the satellite data comes in, which found nearly all volcanic deposits on the surface "exhibit signatures of water."


According to Ralph Milliken, lead author of the study and an associate professor in Brown's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, "The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the Moon is wet."

If the interior of the Moon is as water-rich as the researchers now believe, it does raise a question about the exact origin of the water. But it also increases the chances of humans forming a colony on the Moon because the water is already there to support it.

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