Researchers discover water on the moon is widespread, similar to Earth's

Jul 21, 2010
The Moon. Image: NASA

Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are once again turning what scientists thought they knew about the moon on its head.

Last fall, researchers, including Larry Taylor, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, discovered "lunar dew" on the moon's surface -- absorbed "water" in the uppermost layers of . This discovery of water debunked beliefs held since the return of the first Apollo rocks that the was bone-dry.

Now, scientists, including Taylor and Yang Liu, research assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 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.

Their research will be featured in the article, "Lunar Apatite with Terrestrial Volatile Abundances" in the July 22 edition of the scientific journal, Nature.

Unlike lunar dew which is believed to come from an outside source such as solar wind which brings hydrogen into contact with the Moon's oxygen, the water discovered by Taylor and Liu is internal, arising from an entirely different origin. How it got there is not yet known. 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. Therefore, 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 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."

This is a photomicrograph of a thin section of lunar sample 14053. Credit: Larry Taylor/University of Tennessee

The finding of volatiles on the moon has deep implications for how it, and the Earth, formed. It is generally believed that the moon was created when the early Earth was hit by a Mars-sized proto-planet called Theia, melting and vaporizing itself and a large chunk of the Earth. The cloud of particles created by the impact later congealed to form the moon, which supposedly was devoid of highly volatile elements such as hydrogen and chlorine. However, the researchers' discovery of these volatiles challenges this theory.

"If water in the Moon was residue water kept during the giant impact, it is surprising that water survived the impact at all because less volatile elements, such as sodium and potassium, are strongly depleted. The details of the impact theory need to be re-examined," Liu said.

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 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.

"Now we have ready sources of water that can be consumed by plants and humans but also electrolyzed into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to develop rocket fuel," Taylor said. "Until the recent discovery of in and on the moon, it was going to be a very energy-intensive endeavor to separate these elements from the lunar rocks and soil."

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

Provided by University of Tennessee at Knoxville

5 /5 (23 votes)

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User comments : 25

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Hesperos
5 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2010
This finding strengthens the argument of those who would like to see NASA return to the moon. Many people believe that mankind should colonize the moon before attempting something more ambitious such as landing men on Mars. The questions are when, how and by whom will it be accomplished?

If NASA doesn't do it the Russians, and for sure the Chinese will. Should America accept Chinese and Russian domination in technology and space exploration, or would that lead to the stagnation and marginalization of American society?
omatumr
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2010
Hesperos, the US National Academy of Sciences steered the United States science programs away from competition with the Russians, Chinese, or any other nation.

Dr. Pachauri, head of the UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) wrote in a recent letter to his associated scientists that "we are an intergovernmental body consisting of 194 states.”

Will this lead to "stagnation and marginalization of American society?" I do not know. Most Americans are unaware of the changes that quietly took place over the past few decades.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

kevinrtrs
Jul 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Buyck
1 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2010
The Moon will colonized by decade or two so... thats inevitable. Many countries let fall there eyes on that planet. Countries like India, China, Brazil, Russia and so on... they all want to go to the Moon. And Japan will a robotic mission.
Jeremyh
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 22, 2010
@kevinrtrs

As it stands, the statement that God created the moon is equally valid and probably far more credible than any theory produced by man so far!



Where is your proof.... Is is in the isotope signature of the moon Did you find the fingerprint of your god, or was it someone else's God. The human Race will slowly purge your views in favor of the truth of science... which never presumes to have the answer, only the closest understanding of what the answer may be. You on the other hand seem to have all the answerers, without any grounds on reality what so ever.
You might want to read more "Non Religious" Truth before posting here again.

kevinrtrs
1.4 / 5 (11) Jul 22, 2010
@jeremyh
Where is your proof.... Is

You know that I can simply ask you the same question and you'll have no answer, don't you?

We're in the same boat here since no one can go back in time and document where the moon came from.

So you also have to rely on faith. Faith in man's ability to one day perhaps get to some kind of answer. But it cannot be conclusive so you will always live with a question hanging over that story. You'll live by faith. Strange, that.

CreepyD
not rated yet Jul 22, 2010
Is there enough water to use to create enough oxygen to breath? Maybe that as well as a hydroponics bay would create enough.
@kevinrtrs, there is more proof to show the scientific way than the religious way that's for sure.
We are finding the moon is more like the Earth all the time.
It also spins EXACTLY in time with it's orbit in relation to the Earth, another huge clue that it was a part of the Earth at one point.
I'm sure there's more but I'm no expert.
Religion is good to use when there is an absense of evidence, as it can always explain it somehow, and people are happier settling for a 'made up' answer than no answer at all.
Jo01
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2010
@kevinrtrs, Religion is - like for example lightning - an explained phenomenon.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2010
As it stands, the statement that God created the moon is equally valid and probably far more credible than any theory produced by man so far!
Nope, only idiots believe that sort of junk.
omatumr
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 22, 2010
HOW IT WORKS

Should America accept Chinese and Russian domination in technology and space exploration . . . ?


Our Department of Energy (DOE) ignores neutron repulsion, the largest source of nuclear energy [1], but DOE gave $1.5-1.7 million US tax dollars to the Univ of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) [2,3] - despite the Climategate scandal over data manipulation.

On Wed 6 Jul 2005 CRU's director Dr. Phil Jones sent this email message [2,3]:

"I hope I don’t get a call from congress ! I’m hoping that no-one there realizes I have a US DoE grant and have had this (with Tom W.) for the last 25 years."

1. Journal of Fusion Energy 19, 93-98 (2001)
2. Watts Up With That, 21 July 2010 by Anthony Watts
3. The Air Vent, 21 July 2010 by Jeff Id
hernari
5 / 5 (6) Jul 22, 2010
@jeremyh
Where is your proof.... Is

You know that I can simply ask you the same question and you'll have no answer, don't you?


Scientists are not saying they KNOW where the moon originated. It's merely a theory. Religious zealots on the other hand claim to KNOW without proof. That's the difference.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (7) Jul 22, 2010
What's the point, didn't Osama scrap the constellation program?
Oxensraiser?
Jul 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ArcainOne
5 / 5 (4) Jul 22, 2010
@jeremyh don't engage the idiots it only makes them stronger.

As for god vs science who cares. For you religious zelots god did it, clap your hands and go away, and stop bothering the scientists. Now for the rest of us who may be interested in HOW god did it, let us continue our work.
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2010
Many people believe that mankind should colonize the moon before attempting something more ambitious such as landing men on Mars. The questions are when, how and by whom will it be accomplished?

If NASA doesn't do it the Russians, and for sure the Chinese will.
China did not engage in the business of colonizing ever in its history.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2010
China did not engage in the business of colonizing ever in its history.
That's blatantly wrong. Look up the Qing Expansion.
StandingBear
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2010
Lets see, water easily gotten [hope so], Helium-3 for fusion, caves for shelter, dew, oxygen....everything the Chinese want to go there, set up a base, build a huge honkin space gun and keep us 'foreign devils' out so they can have it all for themselves. We are in a space race whether we like it or not, and for our survival as a culture have no choice but to play. The moon is the ultimate high ground from which to throw rocks back to earth. At one sixth gravity, a mass launcher could throw really large, cheap, and numerous rocks.
omatumr
1 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2010
"Strategic Plans" of the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense include the responsibility for protecting us against such developments.

The Climategate scandal revealed that the US DOE was instead sending millions of US tax dollars overseas for climate studies of Prof. Phil Jones of climategate fame at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2010
China did not engage in the business of colonizing ever in its history.
That's blatantly wrong. Look up the Qing Expansion.


And Tibet. And Guangxi Clique. And Shanxi. And Yunnan. And Manchukuo. And Mengkukuo. All these were "incorporated" into China by Mao.

More accurate to say the Chinese RARELY are expansionist. Of course the Soviets and Chinese shot at each other several times over their mutually "undefined" borders.
frajo
not rated yet Jul 25, 2010
China did not engage in the business of colonizing ever in its history.
That's blatantly wrong. Look up the Qing Expansion.
I'd prefer to not confuse expansion with colonialism. A colony is to be understood as a territory geographically separated from its administrating territory. China never in history had been administrating geographically separated territory.
When I say "colonization" then I mean something that doesn't include expansion into bordering territory.
And Tibet. And Guangxi Clique. And Shanxi. And Yunnan. And Manchukuo. And Mengkukuo. All these were "incorporated" into China by Mao.
None of these territories is separated from the mainland.
More accurate to say the Chinese RARELY are expansionist. Of course the Soviets and Chinese shot at each other several times over their mutually "undefined" borders.
Undefined Chinese borders are historical remnants of British and Russian imperialism.
RickDangerous
not rated yet Jul 26, 2010
@Jeremyth
"The human Race will slowly purge your views in favor of the truth of science... which never presumes to have the answer, only the closest understanding of what the answer may be."

I get what your saying and more or less agree overall, however...
Not so. So-called science is full of doctrine as bad for progress as "the earth is flat" non-sense the Church spun for centuries. Science is like just about everything else now, a market, full of private & corporate interests, and even political ones, and ideas that are not necessarily about truth or discovery or progress.
People like Dr André Gernez had to go against the doctrines to find cures, they had to question what the "scientists" would not. They "KNEW", so he must have been wrong. Well, he wasn't. In fact he never was in his whole career. If you don't know about him, look him up.
One might consider doctrine that cancer causes candida, for example. A certain Simoncini thinks candida causes cancer.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Jul 26, 2010
I'd prefer to not confuse expansion with colonialism. A colony is to be understood as a territory geographically separated from its administrating territory. China never in history had been administrating geographically separated territory.
Again, untrue. Macau, Annam, Brunei, Cochin, as well as Japan and Korea before they became nations, were Chinese colonies.

The Chinese used colonies extensively, primarily as prison colonies and labor camps.

The Chinese East Indies survive as a Chinese colony today, albeit of small size as well as multiple colonies in Africa currently. There are even questions of whether China will begin to expand their colonialism in Africa due to resource demands. You're far off the mark, by either definition.
frajo
not rated yet Aug 05, 2010
Macau, Annam, Brunei, Cochin, as well as Japan and Korea before they became nations, were Chinese colonies.
What's your definition of a colony?
Macao is a 30 square km spot of land, comprising one peninsula and two island and always geographical part of the Chinese mainland. 1557 the Portuguese settled there and the Chinese tolerated them. From 1943 till 1945 Japanese occupation. 1999 formally Chinese again. What's that to do with a Chinese colony?

Annam has been under Chinese rule twice; about 1000 years until 939 and for 20 years in the Ming period. As it is an adjacent region to mainland China, again this doesn't count as a colony; it's rather an expansion.

Brunei? They were a British colony, but never a Chinese.

Cochin? Portuguese colony 1503, after that Durch and British. No Chinese administration.

Japan: Don't know of any Chinese colonization. What are your sources?

Korea: Again, neighbouring territories. No colonization, only expansions (from both sides).
frajo
not rated yet Aug 05, 2010
The Chinese used colonies extensively, primarily as prison colonies and labor camps.
Never heard of that. What are your sources?
The Chinese East Indies survive as a Chinese colony today, albeit of small size
There were a British East India company and a Dutch East India company. But I don't know of Chinese "East Indies" territories. What are your sources?
as well as multiple colonies in Africa currently
What are you referring to? There is no territory in Africa with Chinese administration.
There are even questions of whether China will begin to expand their colonialism in Africa due to resource demands.
Never heard of something like this. I'd like to see some source.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 05, 2010
Brunei? They were a British colony, but never a Chinese.
My sources are primarily books on my shelf. I don't have online references but some of them are contained in the below two articles.
http://en.wikiped...al_China

http://en.wikiped...in_China

China has engaged in colonialism greatly. You're wrong frajo, I know it doesn't happen often, but in this instance you're wrong.
frajo
not rated yet Aug 05, 2010
Sorry, editing problems.
frajo
not rated yet Aug 07, 2010
Brunei? They were a British colony, but never a Chinese.
My sources are primarily books on my shelf.
I love books. Yours certainly have titles and authors?
I don't have online references but some of them are contained in the below two articles.
http://en.wikiped...al_China
Thanks for the revelation; it explains our difference. To put it simple: Tributaries are not necessarily colonies. Wikipedia on "Tribute":
In China, the tribute system began from ancient China period ...
It was an integral part of the Confucian philosophy and was seen by the Chinese as equivalent to the familial relation of younger sons looking after older parents by devoting part of their wealth, assets, or goods to that purpose...
Tributaries usually had their own government, whereas colonies don't.