Byjus Logo

Discovery of water on the moon

Team StoryWeavers|November 12, 2020, 12:24 IST| 6


The existence of water on the moon has for years been a million-dollar question. Being the closest celestial body to the Earth, the Moon has been of great importance to scientists and governments alike.

The presence of water could very easily change the value of real estate on our friendly ball of cheese in the night sky. The Apollo 11 mission by NASA was the first manned mission to the moon in the year 1979. The very next year the USSR landed the first rover on the surface of the moon called Lunokhod 1.

The race to colonise the moon had begun with the US and the Russians in the lead. But the fact remains that water is the most important commodity in any colonisation project, the absence of which would stop the project in its tracks.



The first signs of water on the moon:


Unlike our planet, the moon has no atmosphere of its own, thus making it impossible to hold water on the surface. Or so scientists were led to believe. The first indication of water on the moon in the form of solid ice came in the 1990s. Spacecraft orbiting the moon picked up indications of the frozen find in the inaccessible craters at the poles of the moon.

With advances in space exploration and technology, the evidence of water on the lunar surface would solidify further.

The next significant breakthrough came in 2009 when India launched its much famed Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The scientists at ISRO managed to pull this feat off with a record low budget, making it a big sensation. The instruments onboard the Chandrayaan were able to pick up reflected light signatures that resembled that of water.

In spite of all this, it was difficult to be certain if the signature was that of water or that of hydroxyl compounds found in minerals on the surface.


The biggest breakthrough:


The biggest breakthrough came recently when a group of scientists at NASA’s ASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA, detected an irrefutable signature that proved the presence of water on the surface of the moon.

The scientists used the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) to achieve this. This was a modified Boeing 747 aeroplane mounted with a 2.7 meter reflecting telescope.


Details of the find:


H2O was discovered at the moon’s south pole. Data puts estimates at 100 to 400 parts per million (PPM) which comes to around 0.01% to 0.04%. Professor Mahesh Anand at the Open University in Milton Keynes believed that the estimated quantity was significant and could be extracted successfully under the right temperature and pressure.



How water on the moon could change future missions and colonisation projects:


  • Water is one of the most precious resources found in outer space. The presence of it could change the way space missions are designed.
  • Chemical and industrial processes on the moon could use water both as a source of fuel and as a feedstock. Splitting H2O into hydrogen and oxygen can help in its use as a fuel.
  • The oxygen found in water can be used for replenishing oxygen needs on the surface, especially respiration.
  • Artificial space greenhouses for agriculture on the moon could become a reality with this discovery.
  • Having water on the surface of the moon could significantly reduce the need to carry fuel, oxygen and water on such missions.
  • The moon, with its weaker gravitational pull, could be used as a relaunch facility that could launch missions with higher payloads.
  • Drinking water needs of colonists and rocket fuel requirements could also be met.

The implications of this discovery could be limitless for all we know.


What experts have to say about the discovery:


  • Although the presence of water on the surface of the moon is something significant, the question of harvesting it still remains unanswered. Some experts believe that harvesting water from the crater walls where temperatures remain below -230 degree centigrade could be a daunting task.
  • Ian Crawford, a professor of astrobiology and planetary science at the University of London says, “If it turns out that there is a lot of water in these non-permanently shadowed areas, then that is potentially a very large area, and it is accessible because it is in sunlight”
  • Questions still remain about the form of water found on the surface and also regarding its distribution. Depending on how the substance is found on the surface and at what depth, it will definitely have an impact on its practical significance.
  • There is a planned manned mission to the moon in the making. NASA expects to send two astronauts – a man and a woman – to the moon by 2024.

The discovery of water on the moon has gotten many space enthusiasts and scientists excited. This has opened up doors to a world of endless possibilities. It won’t be long before we get to make interplanetary travel a reality. It might almost be as normal as air travel as we know it today!

About the Author

Rohit is someone who fell in love with the word – change. And if there is one thing that he hates, it’s a boring and repetitive life. He loves learning new things and believes that it is a lifelong process. He also enjoys research, reading and reducing most things that he comes across to numbers!

Leave a Comment



Mourosi Pal

November 21, 2020

I wish I could go to the moon too


November 19, 2020

Book my tickets,please!


November 18, 2020

Thanks a lot for this awesome information ….


November 17, 2020

Thanks a lot for this awesome information .

Parvathi Ajayakumar

November 17, 2020

Thank you for the beautiful information byjus ?????


November 17, 2020

I wish I could get a chance of being an astronaut and make India feel proud


Join 100+MN Registered BYJU'S Users

Book Your Free Class Now

Thank you!

Your details have been submitted