By Daily Mail Reporter
UPDATED: 16:09 GMT, 28 September 2009
The discovery of water on the moon could pave the way for us to build a rocket refueling station up there.
For man to be able to make sustainable, affordable voyages in the solar system, we need a way to re-fuel off the planet.
Now, with the discovery of hydrogen and oxygen molecules – the components of water – on our neighbouring body, we may now have a staging post to explore the other planets.
A ship taking off from the Earth expends so much fuel escaping the planet’s gravitational fuel that there is little to spare for inter-planetary exploration.
But a staging post on the moon could allow a ship to re-fuel with relative ease, and could help speed up the exploration of other planets, such as Mars, where water has also been detected within the last few weeks.
The discovery of water on the moon was made by the Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1.
Scientists were looking for a signature of water in the craters near the poles, but were surprised to find evidence of water on the sunlit areas of the Moon instead.
Experts believe the water is trapped in the Moon’s surface dirt and in theory can be extracted in large quantities to support life.
Professor Larry Taylor, a planetary scientist at the University of Tennessee and co-author of the research, said: ‘Space ships use up to 85 per cent of their fuel getting to the moon – but this [water] will allow the moon to be a gas station in the sky.
‘This means missions will be able to load up on hydrogen and oxygen and the moon can act as a stepping stone to other planets such as Mars.’
He said that solar-powered babes could become ‘commercially viable’, although still a costly process.
American researchers are now figuring out ways of extracting water from the moon, such as using sifting tools to extract metal oxide particles, which can then be heated to produce oxygen, which can then be combined with equally-plentiful hydrogen particles to make water.