Chinese lander finds first on-site evidence of water on the moon


China’s Chang’e 5 lander provided the first on-site evidence of water on the moon – and gave us new clues about where to find more.

The background: When astronauts first returned from the moon in 1969, NASA thought it was completely dry. But by 2009, three spacecraft had produced “unambiguous“proof of water (H2O) or hydroxyl (OH) on the moon.

In 2018, NASA confirmed the presence of frozen water at the icy poles of the moon. Two years later, he announced the discovery of some water in sunny areas that humans are more likely to visit.

“It’s like an ‘excursion’ to the Moon, the first opportunity to detect signs of water at close range.”

Lin Hongley

Why is this important: If the moon contains water, it opens up a world of possibilities for space exploration.

“Water is a precious resource, both for scientific purposes and for the use of our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist. said in 2020. “If we can use the moon’s resources, we can carry less water and more equipment to enable new scientific discoveries.”

What’s up: So far, all of our evidence of water on the moon has been collected remotely – it was either based on observations from orbiting spacecraft, or discovered in lunar rock samples brought back to Earth.

Now the Chang’e 5 lunar lander has collection the first one on the site water proof on the moon.

“It’s like an ‘excursion’ to the Moon, the first opportunity to detect close-range, high-resolution signs of water on the lunar surface,” said Lin Honglei, lead author of a related study. according to the South China Morning Post.

“Water is a precious resource, both for scientific purposes and for the use of our explorers.”

Jacob Bleacher

The details: The discovery of the Chang’e 5 lander was made possible by an instrument called a spectrometer, which measures the amounts of light reflected from objects. Based on these reflections, scientists can determine what the target is made of.

Chang’e 5’s spectrometer was used to analyze both the surface soil and a nearby moon rock. According to the data, the soil contained only 120 parts per million (ppm) of water, but the rock had trapped 180 ppm of water.

Scientists suspect moon rock was dislodged from the moon’s interior when Chang’e 5 landed, suggesting there is more water below ground on the moon that we cannot detect on the surface.

Look forward: We may have more on-site evidence of water on the moon in the near future.

NASA plans to send its Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) on the moon before the end of 2022. This experiment will use a drill to extract soil from three feet below the moon’s surface so that a spectrometer can then analyze it.

Not only could this improve our understanding of how much water might be on the moon, but it could also aid future efforts to harness it for use as fuel, drinking water, and more.

We would love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at


Comments are closed.