Chinese researchers have discovered evidence of water in samples taken from a lava plain on the moon, advancing their knowledge of the genesis of water there and answering a key question for future lunar exploration.
The researchers described their analysis of solidified lava fragments recovered by an unmanned Chinese mission from the plain known as the “Ocean of Storms,” where they discovered evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl trapped in the crystalline mineral apatite.
In samples collected by NASA decades ago, hydroxyl, which consists of a single hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom instead of the two hydrogen to one oxygen in a water molecule, was also discovered.
It was widely believed that the majority of the water on the moon formed as a result of chemical reactions sparked by the sun’s charged particle bombardment of the lunar surface.
The scientists concluded that the hydroxyl found in rocks like apatite is most likely an indigenous source.
The scientists concluded that “the hydroxyl concentrations in foreign materials produced by the collision reactions are probably minimal.”
According to them, the Chinese samples indicate that little to no hydroxyl in them came from “extraneous sources.”
For collecting dirt and rock from a hitherto unexplored area of the Oceanus Procellarum plain, China’s Chang’e-5 mission, named after the legendarily Chinese moon goddess, returned 1,731 grammes of samples in December 2020.