Hydrogen Detected In Lunar Samples

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)
November 24, 2023
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Hydrogen Detected In Lunar Samples
a HAADF image showing region with melt bleb with large vesicles beneath it. b EDS element map shows the bleb is silicate with variable composition of elements including Ti. c HAADF image showing individual pixels in the spectra image. d Low-loss EELS from pixels noted in (c). Solid numbered lines are from pixels within vesicles while dotted lines are from pixels directly beneath each vesicle. Solid black line is from unaltered apatite and shows average low-loss signal for the phase. Spectra from each vesicle offset vertically for clarity. e Map of relative intensity of O pre-peak at 531 eV (median filter) showing the regions with smaller pre-peak around the larger vesicles and the surface region with very sharp pre-peak. The silicate and carbon coat have no pre-peak. f Selected oxygen core-loss spectra summed from regions with similar pre-peak intensity, normalized at 540 eV. The oxygen K-edge EELS show large variation around the vesicles in this region beneath the silicate melt bleb. Dotted lines indicate window used for pre-peak map. — NRL/Nature

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) researchers have discovered solar-wind hydrogen in lunar samples, which indicates that water on the surface of the Moon may provide a vital resource for future lunar bases and longer-range space exploration. Space-based resource identification is a key factor in planning for civilian- and government-led space exploration.

“Hydrogen has the potential to be a resource that can be used directly on the lunar surface when there are more regular or permanent installations there,” said Dr. Katherine D. Burgess, geologist in NRL’s Materials Science and Technology Division. “Locating resources and understanding how to collect them prior to getting to the Moon is going to be incredibly valuable for space exploration.”

The Apollo lunar soil samples were provided by a NASA-funded research mission to NRL scientists for investigation and testing. The research team, led by scientists in NRL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, continues to study lunar surface and asteroidal samples to gain understanding of how surfaces interact with the space environment, which is known as space weathering. Previous testing from additional Apollo samples confirmed location of solar wind helium in lunar soil grains.

“This is the first-time scientists have demonstrated detection of hydrogen-bearing species within vesicles in lunar samples,” said Dr. Burgess. “Previously, the same team at NRL used state-of-the-art techniques such as scanning transmission electron microscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy to detect helium in lunar samples, and other researchers have found water in other planetary samples, but this is the first publication to show hydrogen in-situ in lunar samples.”

The research article was published to the “Communications Earth & Environment” journal on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, Key West, Florida, and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or [email protected].

Hydrogen-bearing vesicles in space weathered lunar calcium-phosphates, Nature (open access)

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