Water in sight! A reserve of 600,000 million litres of water found on the Moon

There is much more water on our satellite than previously believed. New perspectives are opening up for lunar research and colonisation.

moon, water
The map of the lunar craters. In green, the "anomalous" craters that contain the ice inside. Photos from NASA

No less than 600 million tons of water in the form of ice are hidden inside the craters near the north pole of the Moon. The conclusion is derived from the images captured by NASA's Mini-SAR radar, aboard the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1.

These 600 billion litres of water are distributed under about 40 craters, between 2 and 15 km in diameter, located in regions of the moon that have remained without sunlight for millions of years. According to scientists, these cold and dark conditions favour the existence of stable deposits.

The images of the Mini-SAR confirm the suspicions of the existence of water ice under these craters with sharp edges and fields of rock blocks, which present a particular "degree of surface roughness" that suggests the presence of ice.

Scientists consider that the singular distribution of rocks, with respect to what is usually observed in a normal crater, must be originated by a different material located inside the craters.

"We interpret this relationship as consistent with the water ice present in these craters. The ice must be relatively pure and at least a couple of meters thick to produce this signature," the researchers say.

The Mini-SAR is a Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar. A small radar designed to map the dispersion properties of the lunar poles in order to find water ice and determine its location and distribution.

"The image that arises from the multiple measurements and data resulting from the instruments in the lunar missions indicates that the creation, migration, deposition and retention of water are occurring on the Moon," said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment. . on the Moon and the Houston Planetary Institute.

Promising future for lunar missions

The results are consistent with previous findings from other NASA instruments, such as the discovery of water molecules by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and the detection of water vapor made by the LCROSS satellite.

"After analyzing the data, our scientific team measures a strong indication of water ice, a finding that will give future missions a new objective to explore and exploit further," Jason Crusan, executive of the Mini-RF program for NASA's Space Operations Mission.

These new data reinforce the idea that the Moon has various forms of water, which could be key for future space explorations and possible lunar colonisation.

This discovery suggests that the Moon is an even more interesting destination for scientific and operational exploration than previously believed. "The new discoveries show that the Moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had thought," Spudis added.