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An airplane passes in front of a full moon as it descends for landing in Mexico City, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP) An airplane passes in front of a full moon as it descends for landing in Mexico City, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP)

An airplane passes in front of a full moon as it descends for landing in Mexico City, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek March 6, 2023

Is the moon ‘habitable’ for people? Not with its lack of liquid water or breathable atmosphere

If Your Time is short

  • Available research suggests the moon is uninhabitable.

  • The moon has a thin exosphere that contains a variety of atoms and molecules, including helium, argon, sodium and potassium. It is not breathable. 

  • Water molecules have been found on the moon, but not in liquid form and H2O molecules are incredibly scarce there.

It’s not time to move to the moon, no matter how out of this world the idea sounds.

Citing an anonymous source, a social media post suggested the moon could be prime real estate. 

"A confidential source claims that the moon is a habitable place and that it is inhabited by more than 250 million humanoid aliens," read the Feb. 6 Facebook post

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post was shared by a Facebook page called "UFO Sightings," which describes itself as a news and media website. The page, which has amassed more than 20,000 followers since its creation in February, often shares photos and links to articles about aliens, unidentified flying objects and other mysterious creatures and animals. 

The post proclaiming the moon habitable does not link to a longer article, however. It links only to the main UFO Sightings Facebook page. 

PolitiFact found no evidence to support the account’s claim that the moon is habitable. 

Generally, a planet is considered habitable if it "can sustain life for a significant period of time," according to NASA. Within Earth’s solar system, NASA’s website says that habitability requires liquid water, energy and nutrients. 

Available research suggests the moon is uninhabitable.

The moon has a thin exosphere, similar to an atmosphere, that contains elements of helium, argon, sodium and potassium, according to the European Space Agency. The exosphere is not breathable.

For comparison, NASA reported that the density of the exosphere at the moon’s surface is about the same as the density of the outermost edges of Earth’s atmosphere, where the International Space Station orbits. 

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, July 20, 1969. Aldrin and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the lunar surface, where temperatures range from 243 degrees above to 279 degrees below zero. (AP/NASA)

Earth’s closest neighbor also lacks liquid water, another key habitability requirement

Scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s poles in deep, dark craters — some of the coldest and most difficult parts of the solar system to explore. 

In 2020, NASA also confirmed that water molecules, or H2O, had been discovered on sunlit surfaces of the moon. This bolstered findings from previous lunar missions that had detected hydration on the moon. But the H2O that does exist on the moon is incredibly scarce, according to NASA

"As a comparison, the Sahara Desert has 100 times the amount of water than what the SOFIA mission detected in the lunar soil," the agency wrote

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, aka SOFIA, an eight-year joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, concluded in 2022. 

Lunar water molecules are so scarce that they form neither ice nor liquid water, a researcher told Reuters

"A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true," said Casey Honniball, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. "It’s just the water molecules — because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water."

Although water molecules were detected, we found nothing to support claims that the moon is habitable for people. Researchers have not found evidence of any lunar life. 

We also found no evidence that there are "more than 250 million humanoid aliens" living there. 

This baseless claim circulated in 2018, and PolitiFact linked it to a debunked conspiracy theory that the moon is a hollow spaceship built by aliens. We rated the claim that the moon had more than 250 million citizens Pants on Fire!

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed, "the moon is a habitable place."

Although water molecules have been found, there is no proof of liquid water on the moon and liquid water is necessary for planets to be humanly habitable, researchers say. The lunar exosphere is also thin and not breathable for humans. 

We rate these claims Pants on Fire!

RELATED: No evidence of 250 million moon inhabitants. That’s made up

Our Sources

Facebook post, Feb. 6, 2023

National Library of Medicine, What makes a planet habitable, and how to search for habitable planets in other solar systems, June 1992

Smithsonian Magazine, The moon has more water and ice hidden all over its surface than originally predicted, Oct. 27, 2020

The Planetary Society, Your guide to water on the moon, Aug. 6, 2022

Eos, Moon may hold billions of tons of subterranean ice at its poles, Nov. 20, 2020

Reuters, On the moon, water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (yet), Oct. 26, 2020

NASA, Is there an atmosphere on the moon? April 12, 2013

NASA, NASA searches for life from the moon in recently rediscovered historic footage, July 15, 2019

The European Commission, The moon’s water: where did it come from – and where did it all go? Feb. 19, 2019

NASA Science Earth’s Moon, Inside & out, accessed March 6, 2023

NASA Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration, What makes a planet habitable? accessed March 6, 2023

CNN, Did life once exist on the moon? July 23, 2018

Astrobiology, Was there an early habitability window for Earth's moon? Aug. 1, 2018

NASA, NASA’s SOFIA discovers water on sunlit surface of moon, Oct. 26, 2020

NASA, There's water on the moon? Nov. 5, 2020

Scientific American, Scientists definitely have not found life on the moon, July 25, 2018

BBC Sky at Night Magazine, What makes a planet habitable? April 23, 2021

NASA, Earth’s moon, accessed March 6, 2023

EarthSky, The case for a habitable moon, July 25, 2018

Washington State University, Mysteries from the moon’s past, July 23, 2018

The European Space Agency, Ten things you didn’t know about the moon – atmosphere, Sept. 29, 2021

NASA, NASA’s Legacy of Science, Engineering in Retiring Airborne Observatory, Sept. 29, 2022

NASA, SOFIA overview, accessed March 6, 2023

The New York Times, There’s water and ice on the moon, and in more places Than NASA thought, Oct. 26, 2020

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Is the moon ‘habitable’ for people? Not with its lack of liquid water or breathable atmosphere

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