back to article Moon's glass beads contain enough water to support a mission

Scientists in China have found glass beads contained in lunar soil might hold enough water to provide a resource for future lunar missions. The results, published in Nature Geoscience this week, stem from data collected by China's Chang'e-5 mission, and suggest the Moon's surface holds much more trapped water than previously …

  1. lglethal Silver badge
    Boffin

    Interesting. I wonder how you would go about converting the beads into water? And what is the left overs (tails) of the process?

    I'm getting a mental image of a Harverster just running along the surface of the moon, sucking up the beads, and spitting out the waterless beads out the back like some sort of combine harvester. And then coming back a month later after the beads are replenished by the solar wind. Farming Water on the moon, why not?

    1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      But what if the giant sandworms start to attack the water harvesters?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      2. MrDamage Silver badge
        Holmes

        Use them to catch the bigger fish Quigon mentioned.

      3. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        That's why we have Ornithopters watching out, ready to lift the Harvester from the surface before the Worms attack.

        Havent you watched that documentary, what was it called again, Dune?

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Joke

      Do you want sandworms? Because that's how you get sandworms.

  2. werdsmith Silver badge

    Extracting water and oxygen from Lunar regolith is not really a new idea. Loads of work already done. ProSPA experiment carrying lab-proven experiments to trial on the Lunar surface was supposed to go in 2025 on Luna 27, but I guess a new plan is needed now certain countries are on the naughty steppe.

    1. cookieMonster Silver badge
      Pint

      “ on the naughty steppe”

      Bravo, well played !!

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Boffin

    A lot and just a little

    ...lunar soils may reach up to 2.7 × 1,014 kg

    Wow! That would be a whole 2,727.8 kg of water! That is what a household uses in two weeks or so (depending where you live and so on).

    I guess that it should read 2.7×1014 kg, which would make a bit more sense. However, it still would be just about 7 liters per square meter, which is not a lot if you actually want to extract enough for settlement. If we assume an effective requirement of 100 m3 per person, then you would need a square kilometre harvested per person. Not easy.

    1. Ball boy Silver badge

      Re: A lot and just a little

      They need 100m3? Up to a point: you could consider recycling what you collect. I would imagine the idea would be to take a little up with them then harvest additional, allowing for a more efficient recycling process or additional usage for people and processes.

      Also, are we talking Earth Kg or moon Kg here? There's a subtle difference. Perhaps we would be better off measuring the potential volume in...err...volumetric units!

      1. nintendoeats Silver badge

        Re: A lot and just a little

        Why would there be a difference between a Kg on the moon and a Kg on Earth?

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: A lot and just a little

          The Kg (Kelvin gram) is substantially hotter in the sun than in the shade. The moon is hotter in the sun than the earth. Therefore, water will breach the Kg scale in the moon in its unclouded view during daytime.

          The kg (kilogram), however, is the same on both moon and earth.

        2. NoneSuch Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: A lot and just a little

          How to calculate weights on the Moon:

          Weight on Earth

          ------------------------- X 1.622 m/s^2 = Weight on the Moon

          9.81m/s^2

          So 100Kg on Earth is 16.53Kg on the Moon.

          Mass is how much matter is in a body. Weight is the amount of force acting on a mass due to acceleration due to gravity.

          1. b0llchit Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: A lot and just a little

            Please tell me about this new type of physics that can change the mass of objects without adding or removing stuff from it. I'd like to do that too and sell it to NASA, ESA and all other space agencies and then exploit in any other way commercially too. It would make me a gazillionaire for sure.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A lot and just a little

              Take a bowl of antipasta, mix it with a bowl of regular pasta, and all its mass is converted into energy.

              Also known as Fusion Cuisine.

              1. muddysteve

                Re: A lot and just a little

                Fission chips is much more violent and exciting.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A lot and just a little

        "Ball boy" - you still have 4 mins to edit this before the SI Police arrive!

        Hint: Kg are the same everywhere...

        1. Ball boy Silver badge

          Re: A lot and just a little

          Better not edit it - that'd leave a trail of confusing responses!

          Perhaps I didn't word it well: I meant to point out that 1Kg of water on Earth won't be the same volume as 1Kg of water on the moon. We measure water usage, generally, by volume - so using the volumetric measurement for the potential available would have been a better choice, surely.

          1. b0llchit Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: A lot and just a little

            Just to be clear... the "Kg" does not exist. It is the "kg" (note the small letter 'k').

            The kilogram is a unit of mass, which is the same amount everywhere in the universe. Even when you use water's volume, it will be exactly the same volume on the moon as on the earth (at equal temperature and pressure).

            You are referring to/thinking of the force of attraction between masses. Specifically, the attraction between the mass of 1 kg of water and the the earth at about 5.972168×1024 kg. The net force of attraction, which we generally denote as the gravitational pull of earth, would be roughly 9.81 N of force pulling the 1 kg of water towards the earth. The moon's gravitational pull is about 6 times less than that of the earth. Therefore, the pull of 1 kg of water towards the moon's surface would be about 1.62 N. The mass has not changed. Its perceived weight changed.

          2. RichardBarrell

            Re: A lot and just a little

            Liquid water has about the same volume and density pretty much regardless of gravity or pressure (*). It's almost completely incompressible.

            (* The temperature range at which it will stay liquid does change with pressure, of course.)

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: A lot and just a little

      If it can be collected after use, then water can be cleansed/recycled. Similar situation on ISS, where waste water that's already had a trip through the digestive tract is captured, cleaned up and recycled to be drunk again.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A lot and just a little

        So like Southern Water, except for the cleaning part ?

      2. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: A lot and just a little

        Chances are good you have ingested at least one molecule of water that has passed through Aristotles kidneys.

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: A lot and just a little

          Even a bigger chance that one or more molecules of water were once or twice part of dinosaur pee.

          1. Stork Silver badge

            Re: A lot and just a little

            Did dinosaurs pee? I would have expected them to produce a combined output like the birds.

            1. RichardBarrell

              Re: A lot and just a little

              I guess it would be surprising if theropod pooping didn't work similarly to bird pooping, but there were a huge number of other extinct dinosaurs that aren't ancestors to birds, so who knows if any of them evolved peeing? That anatomy is mostly squishy and doesn't fossilise very well.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: A lot and just a little

      That's plenty for a settlement. Any lunar colony will be recycling water, so you just need enough for the full cycle from sitting in storage tanks to what is in pipes and in use at any given time, to what is "stored" inside people, plants, soils etc. to what is sent through sewer lines to be treated and put back into the storage tanks at the start of the cycle.

      Being able to get water on the moon means they don't have to launch a bunch of it out of Earth's gravity well. Some solar powered drone rover can go collect the 7 liters per square meter until its tank is full, return home to drop it off, then go back out again (or sit idle during the two weeks of lunar night when it can't collect solar energy to operate) until all storage is full. If more people arrive they build more storage tanks and send the rover back out again to collect more water to fill them.

      It doesn't matter if the rover is slugging along at 1 kph and takes two days to fill a 10 gallon tank (depends on the amount of power required to process a liter versus what the rover's solar panels can collect while the rover is not moving) the efficiency is irrelevant since it will still be able to collect enough water to meet the needs of an additional person a lot faster than additional people can join the colony. And anyway the storage will be overprovisioned because 1) not having to launch the water means they can have extra so people can have luxuries like hot showers and 2) they will need to account for the possibility of breakdowns or planned outages in the water recycling system.

  4. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    That's not what I meant when I asked for...

    ...a glass of water.

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Moooon river

    > Thought Icelandic glacier water was rare? How about chugging down some Moon water

    And it will still be cheaper than branded printer ink

    1. Dizzy Dwarf Bronze badge

      Re: Moooon river

      > And it will still be cheaper than branded printer ink

      It's cheaper to buy a new moon each time. Everyone knows this.

      1. Snapper

        Re: Moooon river

        Or a space station!

  6. blueyedmoose

    Cave Johnson would like to offer some advice

    Consuming Moon stuff?

    Hmmmm….maybe stick to lemons.

  7. jollyboyspecial

    They found the glass beads contain between zero and 1,909 μg of water equivalent per gram

    Or to look at it another way between zero and 1.9 litres of water per ton of beads?

    But that's not to say that you dig up a random ton of lunar soil and get say an average of a litre of water from that soil. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it doesn't say clearly what percentage of lunar soil is actually made up of these glass beads. If say 1% of lunar soil is made up of these glass beads then you would need 100 tons of soil to get between zero and 1.9 litres of water.

    It's the zero that's concerning.

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