The biggest factor hanging over human settlement of other worlds is the question of water. We need it to drink, we need it to cultivate food, we need it for fuel; pretty much every human activity requires water. Indeed, supplies of water could be ferried from Earth to the Moon, but that would be prohibitively expensive and ultimately futile. For us to live on the Moon or further afield, H2O needs to already be there.
Ever since the Apollo lunar landings when samples of rock were transported to Earth we’ve been searching for the mere hint of this life-giving molecule. There have been indications that the lunar regolith may indeed contain trace amounts of the stuff, but on the whole, scientific endeavour has yet to return evidence of any large supply of water that could sustain a colony.
Up until now, scientists haven’t been able to seriously entertain the thought of water on or near the surface of the Moon, apart from in the depths of the darkest impact craters. However, data from the recently deceased Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission has supported data taken by the Cassini probe (when it flew past the Moon in 1999 on ...