Scientists say they have definitive evidence for water-ice on the surface of the Moon. The ice deposits are found at both the north and south poles, and are likely to be ancient in origin.
Details of the work have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The distribution of the ice deposits is patchy. At the lunar south pole, most of the ice is concentrated in craters. At the northern pole, the water-ice is both more sparse and more widely spread.
Temperatures on the Moon can reach a searing 100C in daytime, which doesn’t provide the best conditions for the survival of surface ice.
But because the Moon is tilted on its axis by about 1.54 degrees, there are places at the lunar poles that never see daylight.
If there’s enough ice sitting at the surface – within the top few millimetres – the water might be accessible as a resource for future human missions to the Moon.
It could potentially be turned into drinking water for the occupants of a lunar base, or “split” into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. The split oxygen could also be used by astronauts for breathing.