NASA announced Monday it has confirmed the presence of water on the sunlit side of the Moon, marking a historic discovery with implications for US plans to send a manned crew to Mars.

The discovery was made with SOFIA, NASA’s airborne observatory run in conjunction with the German Aerospace Center.

Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division Director, said the discovery has undone prior assumptions that water on the sunlit surface would not survive the lunar day.

“This discovery reveals that water might be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to the cold shadowed places near the lunar poles where we have previously discovered water ice,” he told reporters on a conference call. “This discovery raises new questions about how water is created, and how it can persist in the harsh, air-less conditions of the sunlit lunar surface.”

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