Samples obtained by Chinese mission suggest exploitable water resources on the Moon

Chinese scientists analyzing samples obtained by the Chang’e 5 mission discovered that there is more water in the Moon ‘s soil than previously thought.

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Lunar samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission reveal that lunar soil grains hold more water implanted by the solar wind in the mid-latitude region than previously thought.

Based on this finding, scientists predict that a large amount of water resources are available for use in the high latitude region of the Moon .

Exploitation of resources on the Moon

Scientists had previously discovered the presence of surface water on the Moon . They believed that solar wind implantation, volcanic outgassing, and asteroid or comet impacts could be important sources of surface water on the Moon .

But how does water get to the Moon and how does it stay on it? How much water is in the lunar soil? How is it spatially distributed? A study of lunar soil samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission has shed new light on these questions.

The research team, jointly led by scientists from the National Space Science Center (NSSC) and the Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG), both under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), published the new findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , reports Xinhua .

Lin Yangting, an IGG researcher who led the study, explained that the water they are referring to is not water in the usual sense, but the structural water found in soil grains. Since hydrogen is one of the main components of water , hydrogen concentration is often used to express water content .

The research team selected 17 lunar soil grains, including olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, and glass, from Chang’e-5 samples and carried out experimental analysis of hydrogen content and isotopes using a newly developed profiling technique on a nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer.

The scientists found that the average water content in the upper 0.1 micron zone of lunar grains is 0.7 percent by weight, quite high for non-aqueous minerals. They then demonstrated using deuterium-hydrogen ratios that water on the lunar surface came exclusively from the solar wind.

“Hydrogen ions emitted by the Sun reach an average speed of 450 kilometers per second and hit the surface of lunar soil grains like bullets,” explains Tian Hengci, co-author of the paper and an IGG associate professor.

Based on the analysis of the heating experiments, the research team carried out the simulations on the conservation of hydrogen in lunar soils at different temperatures, and the results showed that the water originated by the solar wind could be well conserved in the latitude regions. middle and upper part of the lunar surface.