The urge to voyage beyond what we know is at the heart of the human experience. Often, this is driven by some rare commodity—spices and silks, gold, or oil.
How about water?
The analogy may sound insane, since water is fairly plentiful here on the ground. But the unique physics of space travel means that going to the moon to get water might actually boost the space economy.
The presence of frozen water on the moon is a key motivating factor for plans to send a new wave of robotic and eventually human explorers back to the moon. That ice is one of the first real resources that humans can use in space—for drinking water, for hydroponic agriculture, and once split into its component elements, oxygen to breathe and propellant for rockets.
This week, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine offered a hint as to how access to that water will come about, tweeting that “for the Artemis Moon base, NASA will establish a cost per ton delivered and once again let private companies innovate”.
Talk of a moon base is a ways off: NASA’s current goal is to get astronauts back on the moon for a brief visit by the end of 2024, but that is unlikely to be realized. The viability of this dream also depends on how exactly the ice, which we’ve only spotted with remote sensors, is distributed on the moon.
Read more: qz