London: The day is not far when humans would start building homes on the moon—thanks to researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who have discovered "lunar dew" on the moon`s surface -- absorbed "water" in the uppermost layers of lunar soil.
The discovery of water by researchers, including Larry Taylor, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, debunked beliefs held since the return of the first Apollo rocks that the moon was bone-dry.
Now, scientists have discovered that water on the moon is more widespread -- on the outside and inside of the moon -- with some similarities to water in volcanic systems on Earth.
Unlike lunar dew, which is believed to come from an outside source such as solar wind that brings hydrogen into contact with the Moon`s oxygen, the water discovered by the researchers is internal, arising from an entirely different origin.
However, it is not yet known how it got there.
The water may have been added by impacting comets, which contain ice, during or after the formation of the moon and Earth.
The existence of volcanoes on the moon more than 4 billion years ago gave the researchers a clue that water might exist inside the body, since the dynamics of volcanoes on Earth are mostly driven by water.
Thus, the scientists made their novel discovery by examining a lunar basalt brought back from the 1971 Apollo 14 mission.
Using secondary ion mass spectrometry at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., scientists determined volatile elements in a calcium phosphate mineral are very similar in the same mineral found on Earth.
The scientists said this provides "robust evidence for the presence of water in the interior of the moon from where some lunar rocks were derived. This demonstrates a closer chemical and geologic relationship between the Earth and moon than previously known. We must now re-evaluate the volatile inventories of the moon, relative to the Earth,” reports Nature.
The finding of volatiles on the moon has deep implications for how it, and the Earth, formed.
The discovery of abundant and ubiquitous water on the moon could mean a human settlement on the moon is not so far-fetched.
Currently, the endeavour would be very expensive. For example, it costs 25,000 dollars to take one pint of water to the moon.
However, if scientists devise processes to easily recover this water from the lunar rocks for drinking water and fuel, a human settlement is not out of reach.
The study is published in the latest edition of the scientific journal, Nature. (ANI)