Thanks to data from India’s Chandrayaan-1, US scientists have been able to confirm that Moon has huge water resources trapped under its surface. According to PTI, the water beneath the surface of Moon is in the form of volcanic ‘glass beads’, which could be extracted and used by astronauts in future lunar colonies. According to the report, a new study of satellite data has found that scores of volcanic deposits across the Moon surface contain “unusually” high amounts of trapped water.
The ‘glass beads’ were formed by the explosive eruption of magma, coming from the deep lunar interior. The new finding has bolstered the idea that lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich. For years, scientists believed the interior of Moon was largely depleted of water and several other volatile compounds. According to PTI, researchers had detected water in some of the volcanic glass beads, which were brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to the Moon in 2008. Another study of tiny crystalline formations within those beads in 2011 revealed that they contained similar amounts of water as some basalts on Earth. This made scientists believe that the Moon’s mantle contains as much water as the Earth.
The scientists, however, wondered whether those Apollo samples represented the prevailing condition in the entire lunar mantle or it was just a sporadic finding. “The key question is whether those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead represent unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich regions within an otherwise ‘dry’ mantle,” PTI quoted Ralph Milliken, an associate professor at Brown University in the US, as saying.
According to Milliken, the study of the orbital data helped in examining the large pyroclastic deposits on the Moon that were never sampled by the Apollo or Luna missions. “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,” he said.
Scientists used orbital spectrometers, which measures the light that bounces off a planetary surface. Study of the wavelengths at which light is absorbed or reflected by the surface gives an idea about the minerals and other compounds present.
When the researchers studied data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an imaging spectrometer that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, they found evidence of water in nearly all of the large pyroclastic deposits that had been previously mapped across the Moon’s surface, including deposits near the Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites where water-bearing glass bead samples were collected.
Milliken said the new finding has proven that the “water found in the Apollo samples is not a one-off.”
The revelation of the presence of huge deposits of water in the Moon’s mantle is expected to have a huge implication for the future lunar exploration. According to researchers, the volcanic beads do not contain a lot of water – about 0.05 per cent by weight – but the deposits are large, and the could be water could potentially be extracted.
The new finding could also save future Moon explorers from bringing lots of water from Earth.
Chandrayaan-1 was launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on October 22, 2008.