China’s Chang’e-5 probe finds evidence of water on the moon’s surface in situ

The Chinese lunar lander has found water on the moon’s surface, marking the first time scientists have found on-site evidence of the substance on the Earth’s satellite. In a study published in Chinese researchers say the lander detected signs of water molecules or hydroxyl, a close chemical cousin of H2O. Chang’e-5 used a spectrometer to analyze the composition of the regolith in the immediate vicinity of its landing site. He discovered that most of the ground had a water concentration of less than 120 parts per million, which made the surface of the Moon much drier than that of the Earth.

Honglei Lin et al.

Chinese scientists believe that most of the molecules arrived on the Moon through a process called solar wind implantation. The charged particles from the sun drove the hydrogen atoms to the lunar surface where they then bond with oxygen to form water and hydroxyl. The study builds on findings by NASA when it found evidence of water on the moon’s sunny surfaces using an airborne infrared telescope. For decades, scientists believed the Moon was completely dry due to its almost non-existent atmosphere. In the absence of an atmosphere, the idea was that there was nothing there to protect the water molecules from the harsh rays of the sun.

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