Hashem made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. Genesis 1:7 (The Israel BibleTM)


On Monday, NASA announced that there may be more water on the Moon than previously thought, so much, in fact, that future visits to earth’s satellite may even be able to use it.  “For the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on the sunlit surface of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate during Monday’s press conference. “We had indications that H2O — the familiar water we know — might be present on the sunlit side of the moon. Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

Previous efforts in 2009 discovered deposits on the surface near the south pole of the Moon that may have been water but scientists could not determine whether what they found was water, H2O (two molecules of hydrogen that are bonded with one molecule of oxygen) or whether it was hydroxyl, OH (one molecule of hydrogen that is bonded to one molecule of oxygen). The ice was trapped in permanently shaded regions of the lunar surface that never receive sunlight.

The announcement was based on two new studies published in the journal Nature AstronomyThe studies were based on data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a robotic spacecraft orbiting the Moon since 2009 in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. The study concluded that “water ice is thought to be trapped in large permanently shadowed regions in the Moon’s polar regions, due to their extremely low temperatures.” Scientists determined that the moon could contain 15,000 square miles of permanently shadowed traps in a range of sizes that could preserve water ice. “If you can imagine standing on the surface of the moon near one of its poles, you would see shadows all over the place,” said Paul Hayne, lead study author and assistant professor in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a statement. “Many of those tiny shadows could be full of ice.” “If we’re right, water is going to be more accessible for drinking water, for rocket fuel, everything that NASA needs water for,” Hayne said.

Data was also collected by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy airborne telescope (SOFIA) which is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter telescope inside its fuselage while flying at 43,000 feet which carries it above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere.  The plane is equipped with a hatch at the rear to allow the telescope to view the heavens. This arrangement overcomes a major obstacle facing earthbound telescopes: atmospheric humidity which can interfere with the search for lunar water.


SOFIA observed the moon at a wavelength that revealed the signature of molecular water. They discovered water deposits in the Clavius Crater, one of the Moon’s largest craters, located in the high southern latitudes where they estimate water is present between 100 to 400 parts per million. In comparison, the Sahara desert has a hundred times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. The lunar water is located inside grains or in between grains on the lunar surface which helps protect it from the moon’s harsh and irradiated environment.