This week, NASA came out with huge news: There is water on the moon. No, it’s not drinkable — yet. But it’s a massive discovery, and one that has huge implications for the future of deep space exploration.
Crucial in this discovery was NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, aka SOFIA, a Boeing aircraft that’s been modified to function as an astronomical observatory. And the NASA project scientist for the SOFIA mission is a woman named Naseem Rangwala, PhD.
Dr. Rangwala, an astrophysicist, spoke with Refinery29 about what it’s been like to work on the SOFIA (“so much fun,” for the record) and make discoveries that turn our understanding of the cosmos on its head.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Refinery29: How did SOFIA get tasked with finding water on the moon?
Naseem Rangwala: “A lunar scientist — who is now the lead author of this paper — wanted to definitively confirm water on the moon using SOFIA. That was something that we had not looked at before. Normally we study distant and much dimmer objects, like black holes and galaxies or star clusters.The moon is much brighter and moves much…