US scientists have discovered new evidence of water on the moon, they said in two articles published on Monday.
Molecular water was detected on the lunar surface, where areas were also found that trap water in the form of ice, researchers wrote in the Nature Astronomy journal.
The findings suggest that water is produced on the moon, or brought from outside sources, and is stored in the moon’s polar regions.
The presence of water is a boon to further lunar exploration and possible future bases, acting as a potential source of drinking water and fuel.
NASA said it would share details of the “exciting new discovery” at a press conference.
The US space agency plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 as a stepping stone to the first human mission to Mars.
In one of the articles, researchers analysed data from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a Boeing 747 jet modified to carry a telescope.
They found that water is present at southern latitudes of the moon, likely stored in glass or between grains that protect it from the harsh lunar environment.
In a separate study, scientists discovered that permanently shadowed areas of the moon where water could be captured permanently – known as cold traps – can be found at both poles.
Some 40,000 square metres of the lunar surface has the capacity to store water, according to the article.
Scientists had long believed the lunar surface to be bone dry, but observations in recent years have shown that water does exist on the moon.