io9 – researchers used a special ion probe to analyze samples of volcanic glass dug up from the Moon’s surface by the crew of Apollo 17. Water and other volatiles from deep beneath the Moon’s surface remain preserved in this glass, and allowed the team of scientists to determine likely water levels in the Moon’s mantle. Those levels were 100 times higher than what previous studies found.
If this study holds up, Moon only has as much water as Earth does in a proportional sense – not as much total water, but as much water as the Earth would have in its mantle if it were the same size as the Moon.
In contrast to most volcanic deposits, the melt inclusions are encased in crystals that prevent the escape of water and other volatiles during eruption. These samples provide the best window we have to the amount of water in the interior of the Moon.
How will all of this affect our plans for a lunar colony? Obviously, if the mantle is as water-rich as this new research suggests, we’ll have a better chance of generating water and oxygen on the Moon for our habitats. Plus, If lunar water is associated with volcanic activity, then that makes NASA’s idea to build a lunar colony in one of the Moon’s giant magma holes even more attractive.