One scientific team found the telltale sign of water molecules, perhaps bound up in glass, in a sunlit region. Another group estimated the widespread prevalence of tiny shadowed pockmarks on the lunar landscape, possible shelter for water ice over an area of 15,000 square miles.
Moon water has been eyed as a potential resource by NASA, which created a program named Artemis in 2019 to send American astronauts back to the moon this decade. Launching water to space costs thousands of dollars per gallon. Future explorers may be able to use lunar water not only to quench their own thirst but to refuel their rockets.
The molecules of water found in this new study aren’t abundant enough for astronauts to use, [NASA research fellow Casey] Honniball said. They detected the equivalent of a 12-ounce water bottle per cubic meter of soil. But greater concentrations may be found in other lunar regions, such as the moon’s volcanic deposits.
NASA also announced in June that it had hired a private company to deploy a rover, named VIPER, to the moon’s south pole in 2023, that will drill for water a meter below the surface.