Solar Wind Makes “Magical Compound”, NASA Scientists say

BY HEATHER ALVAREZ AND EMAN SWENDEH

BY HEATHER ALVAREZ AND EMAN SWENDEH

NASA scientists say there could be a way to make water on the moon, which would allow mankind to establish a permanent presence. The findings are outlined in a report originally published in December 2018 by NASA plasma physicists Dr. Orenthal James Tucker, Dr. William Farrell and Dr. Rosemary Margaret Killen.

Using computer software, Scientists can replicate the chemistry behind the reaction of when solar wind showers the Moon’s surface. The result is hydroxyl (OH), a component of water.

The Making of OH

According to the findings, as the sun streams protons to the moon, the particles interact with electrons on the lunar surface, producing hydrogen (H) atoms. These atoms move through the surface and settle on the rich oxygen (O) atoms attached to other oxygen-bearing molecules, and in turn, make a hydroxyl (OH) molecule, which is one hydrogen atom away of being water.

Rodrigo Ferreira, Aerospace Engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems in Oakville, ON explains that a solar wind is “a kind of stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere [the Corona] of the sun.”

“The Earth has a shield, a shield that protects from the radiation. The moon doesn’t have this shield” says Ferreira. “So the solar wind reaches the moon, and with the surface ingredients we have on the moon, it’s possible to produce water.”

Dr. William Farrell, a NASA plasma physicist expert says “we think of water as this special, magical compound. But here’s what’s amazing: every rock has the potential to make water, especially after being irradiated by the solar wind.”

Previous studies revealed not only the amount of hydrogen that comes from the solar wind and the moon’s thin atmosphere, but levels of hydroxyl in the moon’s soil. “What we’ve done now is figure out how these three inventories of hydrogen are physically intertwined,” says Dr. Orenthal James Tucker of NASA.

“It means that we have all the ingredients, they have all the material in the moon, in conjunction with the solar wind, so if we need water, the moon will be the source in the future to produce water.”

Rodrigo Ferreira, Aerospace Engineer
Interview with
Rodrigo Ferreira

The Hunt for Water

The quest for lunar water continues to draw attention, motivating several lunar missions. However, establishing a human colony on the moon may remain improbable, according to Ferreira. “This discovery, in my opinion does not change anything” he says.

“The main issue on the moon, is the radiation, space radiation.” Earth’s magnet field, which is generated by the earth liquid iron core, protects us from solar radiation. “But on the moon, we don’t have any protection. So, for the human being to dwell, to be on the moon, we would certainly die … we can produce water on the moon, but we can not live on the moon.”

In 2009, NASA confirmed the discovery of water on the moon. NASA first confirmed water ice on the surface of the moon at the moon poles last summer.

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