By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – A new report released by NASA on Friday suggests that water may be far more widespread on the moon than previously thought.
Researchers hope the findings will help determine how the moon’s water got there and if the water could be used as a resource for future NASA missions.
Previously, it was thought that the moon’s water was locked in ice in the lunar polar regions and that the amount of water on the moon changed continuously. The new study contradicts some of these theories, especially the idea that water is confined to only a few areas.
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, was based off data from two NASA lunar missions.
"We find that it doesn't matter what time of day or which latitude we look at; the signal indicating water always seems to be present," Joshua Bandfield, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“The presence of water doesn't appear to depend on the composition of the surface, and the water sticks around.”
The scientists remain puzzled about how the water arrived on the moon – it is possible the molecules were created by solar wind, a wave of charged particles that travels from the sun to throughout the solar system, hitting the lunar surface. Another theory is that the water was stored deep in minerals created when the moon originally formed billions of years ago.
"Some of these scientific problems are very, very difficult, and it's only by drawing on multiple resources from different missions that we are able to hone in on an answer," said NASA scientist John Keller in the announcement.
The researchers also want to investigate how accessible water is on the moon, with the goal of figuring out if it could be used as drinking water for astronauts or as a fuel source for hydrogen-powered rockets.