20 votes

NASA's SOFIA has detected water molecules in the Moon's Clavius Crater, the first time water has been discovered on the sunlit surface

5 comments

  1. [5]
    nothis
    Link
    So... in what way is this totally unremarkable and doesn't mean anything cool will happen?

    So... in what way is this totally unremarkable and doesn't mean anything cool will happen?

    1 vote
    1. [4]
      ruspaceni
      Link Parent
      Pretty remarkable in terms of making the discovery as this was the first time the beoing 747 mounted telescope had looked at the moon. You can't make those measurements on the surface bc of the...

      Pretty remarkable in terms of making the discovery as this was the first time the beoing 747 mounted telescope had looked at the moon. You can't make those measurements on the surface bc of the water vapor in the air, so the fact this first test has found something measurable is quite amazing.

      "roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface"

      It doesn't seem super concentrated or anything but it's nice to think there might be more possible landing sites for water utilizing missions. Reading that line about it being 100 times dryer than the sahara desert kind of sobers you up a bit though

      Even if the water stuff doesn't wind up being a breakthrough discovery , we're still pointing new things at the moon and finding new stuff! Doesn't get cooler than that imo

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        nothis
        Link Parent
        I feel a bit guilty for trying to downplay the coolness of the science, here, (it certainly is cool!) I'm mostly referring to my own tendency to interpret these headlines in a very sci-fi way...

        I feel a bit guilty for trying to downplay the coolness of the science, here, (it certainly is cool!) I'm mostly referring to my own tendency to interpret these headlines in a very sci-fi way which always seems to be followed by a more sober explanation by someone who knows shit about astrophysics, heh.

        So... does that mean a potential moon mission could extract significant amounts of water from the moons surface somehow? "100 times dryer than the sahara" sounds crazy but so does a square meter of the sahara containing 100 12-ounce bottles of water?

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          CALICO
          Link Parent
          Not without it being a gigantic pain in the ass. The press release cites "100 to 412 parts per million" H2O per cubic meter. A 12oz bottle of water is on the more optimistic side of that range at...
          • Exemplary

          So... does that mean a potential moon mission could extract significant amounts of water from the moons surface somehow?

          Not without it being a gigantic pain in the ass.

          The press release cites "100 to 412 parts per million" H2O per cubic meter. A 12oz bottle of water is on the more optimistic side of that range at about 355 parts per million.

          12oz ≈ 355ml, and a cubic meter = 1,000L
          One 355ml bottle of water fills 0.0355% the volume of this cubic meter. It would take just short of 2,817 bottles of water to make a cubic meter's worth, to put the volume into a context. Another context, standard dirt here on Earth with standard gravity is roughly 1,300kg/m3 (at standard hydration).

          That's a lot of moon dirt to process for just one smallish bottle of water, and that's at the upper side of their ppm range.

          Advice varies on how much an adult human ought to drink per day, but it's a few liters generally. That works ought to an absurd amount of moon dirt to process for just one person. For any sizable population, or adding in agriculture, and we begin to look at a herculean task (even after considering the recyclability of water)

          It's not impossible. And if we're already farming a shitload of moon dirt for its water, we're probably also going to try and extract cool stuff like Helium-3 and elements-of-interest along the way. But I'm not sure I would call the amount of water extracted 'significant' unless mining the dirt for its metals and such is our main objective and collecting water is just a side project. The amount of dirt to process for a significant amount of water isn't likely to be worth it, unless we're looking to multitask.


          If we want to dream of a sci-fi future, it'll probably start with us bringing our water with us as we build an outpost near a source of water ice. Then from there build something to process that water ice to ensure a surplus, to allow for agriculture and a higher residential population. From there, begin mining the regolith for useful elements, water, and Helium-3 (if we want to pursue that as a fusion fuel, and think the juice is worth the squeeze).

          Starting out mining moon dirt might not be smart, but if it's there then it could be a valuable resource to harvest if our presence ever becomes large enough to need it.

          4 votes
          1. nothis
            Link Parent
            Great answer, thanks!

            Great answer, thanks!

            1 vote