NASA on Monday announced that scientists have confirmed there is water on the sunlit surface of the moon.
The agency revealed that its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy detected water molecules in the moon's southern hemisphere. NASA's announcement explained that scientists had previously observed "some form of hydrogen" on the moon's surface, but they couldn't "definitively distinguish" between water and hydroxyl. The findings were detailed in two studies that were published in Nature Astronomy.
"We had indications that H2O — the familiar water we know — might be present on the sunlit side of the moon," Paul Hertz, director of NASA Headquarters's Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. "Now we know it is there."
NASA also said in its announcement that this suggests "water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places," and it also "raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface." NASA added, though, that it isn't clear if the water that was discovered is "easily accessible for use as a resource," but the agency said it's "eager to learn" more before "sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024." Brendan Morrow