The moon's insides may contain water — lots of it

The moon may contain vast sums of water beneath its surface, scientists say, a potential boon for lunar explorers.

Satellite data studied by Brown University scientists revealed unusually high amounts of water trapped in volcanic deposits across the moon's surface, suggesting ample amounts of water within its depths.

Scientists thought the moon's interior was largely waterless until 2008, when researchers discovered trace amounts of water in volcanic glass beads retrieved from the moon during Apollo missions of the 1970s. 

Later study suggested the moon might contain more water — a lot more — than previously thought. But Ralph Milliken, lead author of Brown's new research, said the data offered a glimpse into lunar deposits untouched by the Apollo missions.

"The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the moon is wet," Milliken said in a statement.

If that's the case, it could change how we understand the moon's origin. Scientists think the moon came from the debris of a massive, Mars-sized object that crashed into Earth long ago. The heat from such a collision should have eliminated any hydrogen needed to make water.

That makes the moon's interior water a mystery, said Shuai Li, who co-authored the research.

What's more, the water within the moon's deposits may be extractable, she said, which could save lunar explorers from needing to bring "lots and lots of water from home" in the future.

Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

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