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Photo: NASA/JPL/USGS

Water on the Moon might be more easily accessible than previously thought, opening up new possible avenues for future human exploration, according to a new study.

Why it matters: NASA is aiming to send people back to the Moon as part of its Artemis program by 2024, with plans to eventually create a sustainable presence on the lunar surface. That sustainability relies on mining the moon for its resources, like water.

What they found: The new study in the journal Nature Astronomy confirmed that water can persist on the sunlit parts of the Moon, meaning that it's likely more easily accessible than previously expected for future explorers.

  • "This discovery reveals that water might be distributed across the lunar surface and not limited to the cold, shadowed places near the lunar poles, where we have previously discovered water ice," NASA's Paul Hertz said during a press conference.
  • The type of water found in the study is also encouraging because it would be easier to use than other hydrated molecules found in earlier studies.
  • And this water isn't in puddles or icy patches. Instead, scientists think that it may be molecular water embedded in glass created during impacts on the Moon.

Yes, but: The water found in this study might also be difficult to extract, even if it is in a relatively accessible part of the Moon.

  • "If it's locked into glass beads ... it may require more energy to extract it," NASA's Jacob Bleacher said. "If the water is mixed up in the soil, it might be a little easier."
  • Scientists and engineers also haven't figured out exactly how they might mine the Moon at some point in the future.

The bottom line: Scientists want to use water already on the Moon and out in space in order to cut back on the resources they need to launch from Earth. This new study could help them figure out how to do just that.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

What to know about the Moon rock in Biden's Oval Office

The Moon rock now in the Oval Office. Photo: NASA

President Joe Biden hasn't revealed much about his space policy priorities yet, but space fans can take heart that space is on his mind, thanks to an Apollo Moon rock that now decorates the Oval Office.

Why it matters: The Moon rock — loaned to the White House by NASA — is on display "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to a statement from NASA.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

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