Water is life. Everyone knows this. It doesn’t take a science dedicated website like Science Picker to tell you that. Up to 60% of the human body is actually water, many of you likely knew that too – it is a well-reported fact. However, are you aware of the challenges posed by water to space travel? While the technology being developed today is better than ever before and could send us to Mars, the Moon, or somewhere else it is the lack of water that poses a huge problem to the idea of adventuring through space. Scientists have just discovered there may be a greater supply of water outside of Earth than they previously realized. The answer lies on the moon.
Space agencies around the world are envisaging returning to the Moon in the next five to ten years. Within the next twenty years, they hope to set up semi-permanent stations on the moon that will allow them to do more research. The reason for this interest is because of the precious materials on the moon. If these can be mined they could prove incredibly lucrative to the nations that get them. To support these incredibly ambitious missions scientists will require water and lots of it.
Water is important for so many reasons. Water sustains life so if we want to have people working in these stations we need to be able to give them adequate supplies of drinking water every day. Water is also an element, H20. This means it contains Hydrogen and two parts Oxygen. People need oxygen to breathe so if we can separate the oxygen from the hydrogen we can basically give humans some air to breathe while on the moon or elsewhere. Hydrogen is used as a rocket propellant so if we can split out the hydrogen we could essentially fill up our space shuttles with this element and continue our voyage or return home. Clearly, water is vital to the success of a space mission.
Scientists have known for some time that the moon contained water. The poles of the moon are some of the coldest places in the known universe and it was clear there were large blocks of frozen ice lying deep in caverns at the poles. However, space explorers worried about these poles and how easily accessible they were. It appeared it would be too difficult to access these poles for water. Two new studies have revealed some more information about the moon and it has made the prospect of life on the moon (or even Life on Mars if you are a Bowie fan) a more attractive proposition.
One study has shown that on the surface of the moon there are molecules of water. You may be picturing puddles of water or even some ice on the surface but this is incorrect. The moon is too dry. It is 100 times drier than the Sahara desert so there is no water in liquid or ice form on the surface. There are water molecules though. Scientists don’t fully understand how this is possible yet as it simply couldn’t exist on earth but spread across the surface at a molecular level are some water molecules. These could be used for their hydrogen and oxygen. A second study has shown that the water that exists at each pole is far more than previously imagined. There may even be large amounts of water outside of the deep caverns that could be accessed more easily.
For years we have looked at the moon and asked why we can not return. It appears now that we can and that we have a significant purpose to do so. Over the next 20 years, we will see some incredible exploration of space that will change how we live forever.