The researchers discovered water in the form of hydroxyl contained in a crystalline mineral called apatite.
Chinese scientists have discovered evidence of water in samples taken from a lava plain on the moon, bringing them closer to understanding the origin of water on the moon – an important subject for future lunar exploration.
The scientists said they found evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl contained in a crystalline mineral known as apatite in fragments of solidified lava retrieved by an uncrewed Chinese mission from the plain known as the “Ocean of Storms” in an article published in Nature Communications this week.
Hydroxyl, which consists of a single hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom rather than the two hydrogen to one oxygen in a water molecule, was also discovered in NASA samples decades ago.
The majority of the water on the moon was thought to be the result of chemical processes initiated by charged particles from the sun bombarding the lunar surface.
The experts believe that the source of hydroxyl in rocks like apatite is most likely indigenous.
“The amount of hydroxyl in foreign materials created by impact reactions is probably small,” the researchers concluded.
For gathering dirt and rock from a hitherto unexplored section of the Oceanus Procellarum plain, China’s Chang’e-5 mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, returned 1,731 grammes of samples in December 2020.
In the following years, China is likely to undertake more unmanned lunar missions, with one of the goals being the research of water.
The presence of water on the moon could provide more information about the solar system’s evolution. It could also lead to in-situ water supplies, which are essential for long-term human habitation.
“There is still no unanimity on the sources and distributions of water on the moon,” the scientists added.