12 p.m. ET Oct. 26, 2020: NASA announced Monday that water has been confirmed to be present on some sunlight surfaces of the moon, according to two studies published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
It had been believed that water on the moon only existed in the shadowed portion of the lunar surface.
According to Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the water is believed to be distributed across the lunar surface and is only a small amount.
The discovery is a boost for the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man at the moon’s south pole in the year 2024. If the water can be used, it would mean, among other things, that astronauts would not have to transport as much water with them for missions to the moon.
The discovery was made from observation of the moon’s surface via a telescope on SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 airplane that flies high in Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA on Monday will announce an “exciting new discovery about the moon” in a teleconference aboard an airplane fitted with a powerful telescope.
The space agency has not hinted at what the announcement may be, only stating that “this new discovery contributes to NASA’s efforts to learn about the moon in support of deep space exploration.”
The announcement will be made at noon EDT from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, for short. SOFIA is equipped with a nearly 9-foot telescope.
Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.
According to NASA, the briefing participants are:
- Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
- Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
- Casey Honniball, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
- Naseem Rangwala, project scientist for the SOFIA mission, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, California.
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