THE MOON HAS WATER. It’s wet. It’s a wet ass Moon. NASA’s ‘big Moon news’ it was teasing us about is the “unambiguous detection of molecular water (H2O)”, which has huge implications for future moon travel.

A paper published today in Nature Astronomy reported that water is present in the Moon’s high southern latitudes, likely stored in glass or between grains on the lunar surface, to “protect it from the harsh environment”.

A second paper, also published today in Nature Astronomy (big day for Nature Astronomy), reported that scientists found small scale ‘micro’ cold traps at both of the Moon’s poles, where about 40,000 km2 of water could be permanently stored as ice. These cold traps are places where the sun doesn’t shine – literally, never – and are “hundreds to thousands of times” more numerous than large scale cold traps.

“We knew there was some kind of hydration,” said NASA’s Casey Honniball, the lead author who published the results from her graduate thesis work at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu.

“But we didn’t know how much, if any, was actually water molecules – like we drink every day – or something more like drain cleaner.”

Honnibal and her colleagues analysed data from the SOFIA airborne telescope (which is literally a telescope in a 747), and were able to detect what was described as a “spectral signature of H20” that is not shared with other hydroxyl compounds. Ergo, water.

The implications are bloody huge. Water is crucial to space missions, and according to Aussie astronomy professor Alan Duffy, it costs about $35,000 to launch a litre of bottled water from the Earth to the moon.

“But by accessing it directly from the Moon itself we turn our celestial neighbour into a resupply as well as a refuelling station,” Duffy said.

It could be used for hydration, to grow food on a moonbase or long-haul missions, or even be split into rocket fuel, according to Duffy.

“If water is the oil of space, the Moon just became the OPEC of orbital refuelling.”

Just to turn this huge day of SCIENCE into something astrology-related, according to my colleague and astrology guru Matty Galea, it turns out this huge water-based discovery was published while the Moon was in Pisces… a water sign. It all makes sense.

Image: Getty Images