GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

China's Chang'e 5 lunar lander has found the first-ever on-site evidence of water on the surface of the moon, lending new evidence to the dryness of the satellite. The study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances revealed that the lunar soil at the landing site contains less than 120 parts-per-million (ppm) water or 120 grams water per ton, and a light, vesicular rock carries 180 ppm, which are much drier than that on Earth.

What

  1. The presence of water had been confirmed by remote observation but the lander has now detected signs of water in rocks and soil.
  2. A device on-board the lunar lander measured the spectral reflectance of the regolith and the rock and detected water on the spot for the first time.
  3. The water content can be estimated since the water molecule or hydroxyl absorbs at a frequency of about three micrometers.
  4. It was the solar wind that contributed to the most humidity of lunar soil as it brought hydrogen that makes up the water.
  5. The additional 60 ppm water in the rock may originate from the lunar interior. Therefore, the rock is estimated to hail from an older, more humid basaltic unit before being ejected onto the landing site to be picked up by the lunar lander.
  6. The study revealed that the moon had turned drier within a certain period, owing probably to the degassing of its mantle reservoir.

Flashback

  1. The Chang'e-5 spacecraft landed on one of the youngest mare basalts located at a mid-high latitude on the moon. It measured water on the spot and retrieved samples weighing 1,731 grams.
  2. The findings provide more clues to China's Chang'e-6 and Chang'e-7 missions. The investigations of lunar water reserves come into the limelight as the building of manned lunar stations are in the pipeline in the next decades.