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Data from China’s Chang’e-5 lander detects very tiny amounts of water in lunar soil

The uncertainty of science: In a paper published yesterday, Chinese scientists revealed that data from an instrument on the Chang’e-5 lunar lander has detected evidence of very tiny amounts of water in lunar soil, amounts that confirm past data showing the Moon is very dry.

From China’s state-run press:

The study published on Saturday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances revealed that the lunar soil at the landing site contains less than 120 ppm water or 120g water per ton, and a light, vesicular rock carries 180 ppm, which are much drier than that on Earth. … The additional 60 ppm water in the rock may originate from the lunar interior, according to the researchers. [emphasis mine]

It is believed that most of this water is the result of hydrogen in the solar wind.

The paper can be found here.

Before we begin dancing in joy that the Moon is wet, reread the highlighted words. This data instead simply confirms past data that the Moon is very dry. In the paper itself, it is made very clear that this high water content, small as it is, was only detected in a single rock, with all of the surrounding terrain much much drier. From the paper:

The water contents are less than 30 ppm in most measured regolith spots except for [areas] D12 and D17, which may be due to the disturbance of the top layer of the more space-weathered/solar wind–implanted regolith by the lander exhaust and the subsequent sampling process. The unsampled areas of D12 and D17 may have been shielded by [a rock] from the lander exhaust and thus retain the top space-weathered layer that contains higher water content. We predict that higher water content may be found in surface regolith than that from the subsurface of the returned borehole samples if the original stratigraphy is preserved. The estimated water contents of the regolith in the landing area are in agreement with those measured in the Apollo regolith samples and the orbital observations.

In other words, the higher water content, still very dry, appears to only exist on the surface, which is why they suspect it is produced by the solar wind and is also very temporary.

Moreover, there are many uncertainties in this result. The detection might not even be water, but hydroxyl molecules.

What this study suggests is that the patches of suspected water that some orbiters think they have identified in low latitudes on the Moon may simply be these surface molecules left by the solar wind, and that if there is usable water on the Moon, it will only be found in those permanently shadowed craters at the poles, if there.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Hey Bob: This is totally off topic but since you are working this Sunday morning, I wanted to let you know that your picture insert of Lenin & associated caption inspired me to write a number of comments on your last ‘They’re coming for you next’ post. There was also a good conversation between the various commenters. Lastly, here is an alternative exclamatory statement with more of an emotional gut punch which could be useful for our 2022 challenges:
    ‘They’re coming for you next, So Embrace the Suck!’
    Austin Bay wrote the book ‘Embrace the Suck: A Pocket Guide to Milspeak’, and commented:
    “Embrace the suck” isn’t merely a wisecrack; it’s a raw epigram based on encyclopedic experience. Face it, soldier. I’ve been there. This ain’t easy. Now let’s deal with it”.
    On a further side note, regarding your forthcoming essay, perhaps you can offer a draft of it to your colleague John Batchelor. As you know Mr. Batchelor conducts conversations with experts from a wide range of perspectives, and probably would offer interesting insights.

  • Jeff Wright

    Bob, you may be interested in this…a company called Petra just announced a contractless drilling robot called Swifty that can bore through the hardest rock. I can see this being used in housed over lunar tunnels and asteroid interiors.

  • wayne

    At this juncture, I would advocate nuclear weapons.

    Project Sedan
    (July 6, 962)
    Lawrence Radiation Laboratory Technical Report

    “Objective: Determine the cratering effects of a high-yield nuclear explosion.”

  • Max

    Jeff, do you have a link for this contact less drilling robot?

    Wayne, that large crater was made the year I was born…
    I remember my parents telling me that southern Utah was covered with a thick layer of radioactive dust when I was conceived and that’s what is wrong with me :-)

    “The Nevada Test Site proved to be valuable in scientific research and development. Tests conducted there enabled scientists to better understand blast yields, damage radii, and effectiveness of different weapon designs. The site was home to 928 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests, 100 of which were atmospheric, and thus more likely to spread radiation to nearby areas.”

    The tests blast count is not accurate, in court it was revealed that there was 400 additional “Cold war Secret tests” not in the record.
    The downwinders (the “Mormons”) were “test subjects” similar to the Uighurs are test subjects today for the Chinese…

    “It is estimated that nearly 150 million curies of radioactive material was released through the atmospheric tests conducted from 1951 to 1962. This amount of radiation equates to about twenty times the amount of radiation released during the Chernobyl nuclear accident.”

    20 times the amount of radiation of Chernobyl!

    “Fallout landed on grasses and vegetables. Vegetables were consumed directly, while cows and goats ate the grass. These animals produced milk which many families consumed locally, and large amounts of radionuclides were ingested by individuals, especially children, this way.”
    “75% of Upshot-Knothole’s radiation came from the Harry Shot. Geiger counters in the center of St. George reportedly experienced radiation spikes of 300-350 milliroentgens, fully maxing out some of the counters that were used. However, very few citizens were told to shelter. Witnesses claim that children were still playing at morning recess, a full hour after the radiation had settled. It would take several more hours for the message to be relayed that individuals should take cover.
    In the following days, the public became extremely concerned with the Harry Shot. Concern became so widespread that the AEC had to issue an emergency film to convince the public that they were safe. The AEC did not, however, offer corrective or preventive measures — such as not consuming local vegetables and milk for a period of time, or staying indoors immediately following a detonation — for future tests. Instead, the entire situation was smoothed over so that a panic did not ensue, and the population remained in the dark about possible health consequences.”
    (there’s also a good article there on John Wayne and how nearly half his crew came down with cancer filming a movie there)
    (maybe Wayne will know how to find the “emergency film” produced by the AEC)

    I lived through the aftermath of this and remember it well. Many of my Young friends, that did not move away, died of leukemia and cancer’s.
    (my father was a truck driver and bought our groceries in Southern California)
    Most of the men who worked their farms outdoors (mostly cattle ranches) didn’t live past their 60s… Because temperatures in southern Utah stay over 100 most of the summer, women would stay indoors away from the heat and radiation resulting in many widows. In the town I grew up in, dozens of widows living to near 100 years. (The only old men I knew, moved there from somewhere else, usually for health reasons because of the dry air)

    People and cattle died and the earth was sterilized… Dust storms that made the noon sun like night were common.
    And then nature rebounded… first with a plague of rabbits and insects as vegetation begin to grow like crazy. Then came coyotes and cougars with the occasional plagues of frogs making the roads so slick, the cars would slide off the roads were they migrated. (in grade school, my bus driver would let my friends and I off the bus outside of town with our shotguns and 22s (that we took to school with us) to hunt rabbits in his fields for a bounty for every rabbit we killed… (It only paid for more bullets)
    Same area today has the highest population growth rate in the entire nation for many years running, who would ever thunk it.

    Zimmerman noted;
    “The detection might not even be water, but hydroxyl molecules”
    I agree, daytime radiation and heat (250°F) would be thoroughly effective of drying out the soil on the surface.
    Water sublimates to the cold to where temperatures will allow it to remain frozen without boiling. Northern and southern craters that remain out of the sun, as stated above, and deep in the lunar regulaith or under boulders is the place to look for any water.

    It’s also possible for there to be a ionic wind that occurs with every sunrise… where molecules migrate along the horizon as heating occurs. This process is more pronounced, in theory, on mercury.
    Insulated pavilions that remain cold after sunrise will attract frost. If there’s any water on the surface, this is an efficient way of collecting water vapor with no energy required other than collection. Because there’s a considerable amount of other hydrogenated molecules in the solar wind like methane and ammonia, it is likely it will collect that too. Also useful.
    It is estimated the amount of matter thrown into space by solar flares is enough to make an earth sized planet every 11 million years. It’s possible that ice covered comets are a natural renewable resource…
    This theory will soon be tested if the new telescope mirrors has problems being covered in ice.
    It was not wise not to include observational cameras that can detect problems that we did not know could occur. (Now standard equipment on the rovers) nothing fancy, cell phone style button cameras would’ve been adequate.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “there’s also a good article there on John Wayne and how nearly half his crew came down with cancer filming a movie there

    Written this way, your sentence is misleading. The crew did not come down with cancer while filming the movie, they eventually came down with cancer later in life. Even though many smoked, including Wayne himself, half the crew was larger than the expected percentage — possibly a statistical cluster anomaly, but probably not.

  • Jeff Wright

    A search on swifty and Petra should give a link. Now….I would want to see the whole machine before I invest. If they have a Redstone sized tanker of fuel to burn a little hole…

  • Star Bird

    Hmmm water on the Moon what could that mean?

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