Moon-mining enthusiasts were particularly gleeful this week when researchers claimed that they had found definitive evidence that water ice exists on the surface of the Moon. There’s even more water ice than we thought up there, too, and we know exactly where a lot of it is. That may make it even easier to mine this water in the future.
Long before this discovery, researchers have been eager to scoop up any water that may be lurking on the lunar surface. It’s a resource that could be incredibly valuable for future long-term missions on the Moon since water is essential for life to function here on Earth. It could be recycled inside a lunar habitat or used for drinking water or bathing. It could also be used to help plants grow on the Moon, which are needed to nourish future lunar inhabitants.
But perhaps the biggest and most immediate application for lunar water is making rocket propellant. The main components of water — hydrogen and oxygen — are two of the biggest materials that are used to power rockets right now. And making rocket propellant out of the water on the Moon could drastically cut down on the cost of doing ambitious missions in space. Right now, rockets leaving Earth must carry all the propellant they need with them. But by leveraging lunar ice, rockets could potentially refuel once they get to space, allowing them to reach distant locations for less money.
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