In 1973, NASA landed the Apollo 17 capsule on the moon’s surface. For the first time ever, it sent back the first pictures of the moon. They showed an orange silhouette of the Earth dotting the horizon, a portrait of Earth and its home planet as tiny pinpoints of light against the far-off moon. Astronauts also snapped photos of rocks and soil that they jettisoned on the way down to the lunar surface.
If the world’s astronomers follow our astronauts, the moon may be making us its babysitter in the near future.
Armed with the roughly 1,500 lunar photos taken from 1972-1976, an international team led by Michael W. Champlin at the University of Pittsburgh may have found evidence of water in the moon’s inner core. And the frozen water could therefore explain how the moon was created.
“In the last 50 years or so, our models of the formation of the moon can no longer be dismissed as merely invoking the bombardment of Mars or other bodies in the Kuiper Belt,” Champlin wrote in a letter to the journal Astrobiology. “We now think these models are in the realm of the plausible.”
Champlin and his team will follow up their observations by measuring micro-organisms found on the moon. Most likely, this water is stored in hydrogen-oxygen bonds of comets or asteroids that blasted Earth and delivered the key ingredients to create the moon. When this water falls through the Earth’s system, it will end up in Earth’s mantle and eventually reach the moon.
“Once it gets there, it will give rise to a biosphere that people haven’t seen before,” Champlin told NPR in 2013. “The actual terrestrial surface is such a forbidding environment, we think that’s what keeps these things at bay.”
Indeed, these extra-terrestrial creatures have been detected in water ice at the polar regions of Earth, in the cores of other planets and even in asteroids.
In such a murky region of space, there is one thing scientists do know for sure: Water is everywhere.
“The consensus is pretty much rock solid that water vapor is there,” Neil deGrasse Tyson told NPR. “The issue is where it’s going to be and how long it’s going to be there. And the longer it is there, the more challenging it becomes to determine if it’s stable enough to support life.”