News Release

Hydrogen detected in lunar samples, points to resource availability for space exploration

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Naval Research Laboratory

Katherine Burgess, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Geologist


Katherine Burgess, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory geologist, sits in the control room for the Nion UltraSTEM-200x microscope in Washington, D.C., November 16, 2023. Burgess studies lunar grains that were collected during Apollo missions to the moon.  (U.S. Navy photo by Jonathan Steffen)

view more 

Credit: Jonathan Steffen/U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON – 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

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.