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Significant water found in samples from China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission

According to a new paper published in late April, scientists analyzing the samples returned from the Moon by China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission in 2021 have found more water embedded in the topsoil than expected. From the paper’s conclusions:

[O]ur results indicate that a considerable [solar wind]-derived water is stored within at least the uppermost meter (down to 0.8 meters) of the regolith beneath the lunar surface. This type of water represents a valuable potential resource for future in situ exploration of the Moon, as it not only has higher contents than indigenous water (up to several wt.% vs. <50 ppm) but could also be extracted by heating.

We are still not talking about a lot of water, but this result suggests there is more than earlier reports from Chang’e-5’s samples. This result also could explain the hydrogen signature across much of the Moon’s surface by Chandrayaan-1.

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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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7 comments

  • MDN

    Long this likely bodes well for Helium3 as a viable fusion fuel too it would seem, although nothing on this topic is mentioned in the paper that I could see. This isotope is relatively rare on Earth but holds great promise as a very efficient fusion fuel so finding a ready source on the moon could eventually be a real bonanza.

    He3 is speculated to be reasonably plentiful in lunar regolith as it is presumed to be captured in the surface layer exposed to the solar wind. So one or two hundred years from now this could well lead to a real, at scale, green energy industry both on the moon and Mars as well as here on Earth with near limitless power available anytime on demand.

  • Max

    “ 1]. FTI researchers estimated that there could be at least a million tonnes of 3He within the first 3 meters of depth into the lunar surface. One million tonnes of 3He, fused in a D3He reactor, could produce 19 million GWyr of electrical energy [4]. This is ~7 times the amount energy projected to be used for the entire 21st century [5].”
    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20210022801/downloads/AIAA%20ASCEND%202021%20Paper_211018.pdf

    Some have estimated that there’s enough helium three on the moon to power the earth for 1000 years… Mercury has enough to power the earth for much much longer. In theory, it would produce as much energy as nuclear but with less radiation making it perfect fuel for rocket ships.

  • gbaikie

    “High water contents of 0.13–1.3 wt.% are present on approximately half of the grain surfaces (topmost ∼100 nm), comparable to the values of Chang’E-5 scooped soils. The extremely low δD values (as low as −995‰) and negative correlations between δD and water contents indicate that SW implantation is an important source of water beneath the lunar surface. ”

    So, at depth of less than 1 meter, water from the sun, is quite significant on the farside of the Moon. Or no one has measured in on lunar surface on nearside of the Moon [other measuring lunar water from orbital assets].
    Or it seems possible there might have more solar implanted water on the farside {until such time as one lands something on nearside, and provide evidence which indicate something else].
    NASA is focused on exploring the south pole which is high latitude on the farside of the Moon within the Aitken basin- or the Chang’E-5 was at a lower latitude in Aitken basin.
    And if have more solar implanted water, and more Helium and H2 is also implanted from the Sun.
    Way before this, it was said that top meter of lunar surface had about 2 billion tons of H2 {the entire lunar surface] and large scale mining the hydrogen and helium could done with amounts being somewhere around 50 ppm.
    Anyways if doing large scale lunar mining on the far side of the Moon and getting hundreds parts per million of Helium and H2 and water at 1 percent, one is mining a lot of water [if getting any He-3}.

  • gbaikie: These samples came from the near side of the Moon, not the far side, recovered on China’s previous sample return mission, not Chang’e-6 that is now in orbit around the Moon and has not yet landed.

  • gbaikie

    Oh. Then Chinese govt will be able to compare nearside and farside in terms of solar wind effect lunar surface.
    But at this point, perhaps the closer to poles, is a lot better.
    Someone should tell Joe Biden.

  • gbaikie: Yes, the two sets of samples will provide a first data point on the differences between the Moon’s two sides. Hardly conclusive, but still important.

  • gbaikie

    Maybe is related to temperature, did Chinese measure the temperature, 1/2 meter or so, below the surface?

    With Apollo they did that.
    My understanding is 1 meter below lunar surface even during day is quite cold [-35 C} and suppose to be colder as go to polar region. But if pick latitude like say 60 degrees, one can assume it’s at -40 C or colder at all times. But with different topography, one could guess is always a lot colder than -40 C, though slope facing the sun could be well above -40 C.

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