Chinese scientists report in Nature Geoscience that glass beads on lunar soil sampled by the Chang’e-5 mission potentially contain large amounts of water.
Chinese scientists have discovered a new and significant source of water in the crystalline spheres of the Moon, estimated to be 297.6 billion tons.
They concluded this after analyzing samples collected by the Chang’e rover mission, which spent weeks collecting material from the moon’s surface in December 2020, reported Science Alert.
Lunar surface water has attracted much attention because of its potential for use as a resource for future lunar exploration and other space missions.
Now, detailed studies show that these glass beads are likely a new water reservoir on the Moon, recording the dynamic inflow and outflow of water originating from the solar wind and acting as a buffer for the water cycle on the Moon’s surface.
Glassy spheres, also known as impact crystals, formed on the Moon by the subsequent melting and cooling of rocks, after grinding and after large impacts from other space objects.
water over the moon
Countless lunar missions have confirmed the presence of structural water or water ice on the Moon and there is no doubt that it is the most important port of lunar water, although the amount is much less than on Earth, recalls EuropaPress.
Lunar surface water shows diurnal cycles and spatial losses, indicating that a hydrate layer or reservoir exists deep within the lunar surface for the storage, release, and replenishment of water on the Moon’s surface.
However, previous studies of the inventory of water in fine mineral grains of the lunar soil, collision lumps, molar rocks, and pyroclastic glass balls could not explain the retention, release and replenishment of water on the surface of the Moon (ie, the water cycle on the lunar surface).
Therefore, there must be an as-yet-unidentified reservoir of water in the lunar soil that opposes the ability of the lunar surface water cycle.
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG) doctoral student HE Huicun, under the direction of Professor HU Sen, proposed that impact glass beads, a ubiquitous component in lunar soils that are amorphous in nature, were a potential candidate. investigation of an unidentified hydrated layer or deposit in lunar soils.
He systematically noted the petrography, composition of the main elements, water abundance and hydrogen isotopic composition of the pressure glass beads returned by the CE5 mission, with the aim of identifying and characterizing the missing water deposits on the moon’s surface.
CE5 Mission Impact glass beads have homogeneous chemical compositions and exposed flat surfaces. The negative correlation between the abundance of water and the isotopic composition of hydrogen reflects the fact that the water in the CE5 glass beads originates from the impact of the solar wind.
The researchers also analyzed the amount of water across six transects in five glass beads, which showed that the hydrous water was derived from the solar wind, they said in a paper published in Nature Geoscience. Some of the glass beads were coated following the outgassing event.
The impact of the glass balls acted like a sponge to buffer the water cycle on the moon’s surface. The researchers estimate that the amount of water contributed by the impact of the glass ball to the lunar soil varies between 3.0 per 10 at a force of 11 kg and 2.7 per 10 at a force of 14 kg.
“These findings indicate that impact glasses on the surface of the Moon and other atmospheric bodies in the solar system are capable of storing water derived from the solar wind and releasing it into space,” says Professor HU.
New exploration missions
The Chang’e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese moon goddess, was the first by the country to collect samples from the moon’s surface since the Soviet Union received 170 P in 1976.
The United States received 382 kg of samples in the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972. In 2026, the European Space Agency (ESA) will send an exercise robot to the lunar surface and heat its samples up to 100 degrees, among other things. to know the water in the lunar minerals.