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Scientists discover water inside tiny beads of glass on moon

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Analysis of lunar soil samples shows spheres of glass hold water inside them, scientists have said.

Scientists say they have discovered water trapped inside tiny beads of glass scattered across the moon, suggesting a potential reservoir of this precious resource for future human activities on the lunar surface.

The moon was long believed to be dry, but over the last few decades, several missions have shown there is water both on the surface and trapped inside minerals.

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Scientists said on Monday that an analysis of lunar soil samples retrieved in 2020 during China’s robotic Chang’e-5 mission showed that these spheres of glass – rock melted and cooled – bore within them water molecules formed through the action of the solar wind on the moon’s surface.

“The moon is constantly bombarded with impactors – for example micrometeoroids and large meteoroids – which produce impact glass beads during high-energy flash-heating events,” said planetary scientist Sen Hu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geology and Geophysics, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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The solar wind is a stream of charged particles, primarily protons and electrons, emanating outward from the corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, and permeating the solar system.

“Solar wind-derived water is produced by the reaction of solar hydrogen with oxygen present at the surface of the lunar glass beads,” Hu said, with these spheres then acting like a sponge for the water.

For future moon exploration, including potential long-term lunar bases staffed with astronauts, water is of vital importance not only as a drinking supply but as a fuel ingredient.

A screen shows footages of spacecraft for Chang'e-5 Mission.
A screen shows footage of the spacecraft for the Chang’e-5 mission, during an event on China’s lunar exploration programme, at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing on January 18, 2021 [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]

‘Heat the glass beads to free the water’

The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth. But its surface is thought to harbour a fairly substantial amount of water, for example in ice patches residing in permanently shadowed locales and trapped in minerals.

“Water is the most sought-after commodity for enabling sustainable exploration of planetary surfaces. Knowing how water is produced, stored and replenished near the lunar surface would be very useful for future explorers to extract and utilise it for exploration purposes,” Hu said.

Researchers see promise in obtaining water from the glass beads, perhaps through a heating process to release vapour that would then turn into liquid through condensation.

“We can simply heat these glass beads to free the water stored in them,” said Hu.

The capsule returning the soil samples to Earth landed in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

About 3.8 pounds (1.7 kg) of soil were collected in the Chang’e-5 mission, with 32 glass beads – tens to hundreds of micrometres wide – examined in the study from the small amount of soil made available for this research, Hu said.

The glass beads were found to hold a water content of up to about 2,000 parts per million by weight. Hu said he believes that such impact glass beads are a common part of lunar soils, found globally and spread evenly.

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Eta Aquariids meteor shower: Fireball streaks across BC sky

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A bright green fireball streaked across the Okanagan sky Wednesday night, and sightings were reported elsewhere in southern B.C.

The exciting celestial event occurred just before 10 p.m. Wednesday and residents across Kelowna, Kamloops and down to Osoyoos reported seeing the fireball.

One Castanet reader who lives near Kelowna International Airport said it appeared in the sky to the west.

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“It didn’t have a fast movement to it, it sort of came flowing down,” he said. “It was a very bright green, beautiful orb, just very strange, that fell out of the sky last night.”

Kamloops resident Justin Moss caught the event on his house’s surveillance camera, pointing south towards the TRU campus.

People living on Vancouver Island posted online about seeing the event as well, along with others in Washington State.

While it’s not clear what the fireball in the sky was, the Eta Aquariids meteor shower is currently ongoing. The meteor shower, associated with Halley’s Comet, generally runs from about April 19 to May 28 every year, peaking around May 5 or 6.

A meteor’s colour is indicative of the chemical makeup of a meteor. Those with a lot of nickel glow green when they burn up in the earth’s atmosphere.

 

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NASA Contractor Warns That Boeing Launch Must Be Stopped "Before Something Catastrophic Happens"

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“NASA needs to re-double safety checks and re-examine safety protocols to make sure the Starliner is safe before something catastrophic happens to the astronauts and to the people on the ground.”

Shut It Down

A NASA contractor is urging the space agency to suspend the upcoming Boeing Starliner launch over major safety concerns with the aerospace company’s wares.

In a press release, the president of ValveTech, a NASA contractor that supplies the agency with parts, warned that the buzzing sound heard during the now-scrubbed Starliner launch could indicate something seriously wrong with the transport capsule.

“As a valued NASA partner and as valve experts, we strongly urge them not to attempt a second launch due to the risk of a disaster occurring on the launchpad,” ValveTech president Erin Faville cautioned. “According to media reports, a buzzing sound indicating the leaking valve was noticed by someone walking by the Starliner minutes before launch. This sound could indicate that the valve has passed its lifecycle.”

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After the incident, which occurred just before Starliner was supposed to attempt its first crewed launch earlier in May, NASA has said that it won’t try again until at least May 17. According to Faville, much needs to be be done between now and then to head off the worst possible outcomes.

“NASA needs to re-double safety checks and re-examine safety protocols,” he said, “to make sure the Starliner is safe before something catastrophic happens to the astronauts and to the people on the ground.”

Bad News Boeing

The CEO of United Launch Alliance, which is launching the craft into orbit, pushed back strongly on X-formerly-Twitter.

“Not sure what to say about this one,” he wrote. “Close to none of it is correct: Not urgent. Not leaking. Etc. Remarkable that the particular person quoted doesn’t seem to know how this type of valve works.”

ValveTech’s warnings come not just after the scrubbed Starliner launch, but also after months of terrible press for Boeing that have included parts falling off its planes, government investigations, and two dead whistleblowers.

As the company’s press release notes, the launch scrub also occurred after a November 2023 ruling in which a federal court found that Boeing had used a valve from another aerospace company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, that copied ValveTech’s designs. The part was not, according to a witness in that trial, equipped for the job it was meant to do, and as far as the company can tell, it hasn’t been replaced.

“ValveTech continues to question how NASA, Boeing and Aerojet could have qualified this valve for the mission without proper supporting data or previous history or legacy information, which in its experience, goes against aerospace-industry qualification protocols established by NASA,” the press release reads.

All told, these are some pretty serious claims, and Futurism has reached out to NASA to ask if the parts in question have been replaced.

 

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Strong solar storm could trigger northern lights in United States

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Multiple outbursts from the sun could trigger magnificent auroras in many parts of the United States this weekend.

A severe geomagnetic storm is expected to hit Earth on Friday, triggering colorful nighttime auroras, or the northern lights. People in the United States could see moderate to strong geomagnetic activity starting around 11 p.m. and lasting through Saturday.

 

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