In hidden from the impact of direct sunlight lunar craters located in the coldest polar regions of our natural satellite, there are reserves of water ice. In the future, the lunar colonists will be able to use it to keep lunar settlements. About the final confirmation of the ice on the moon reported an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The data on the presence of ice on the Moon were collected using the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) mineral mapper developed by the NASA aerospace agency and installed on the Indian satellite Chandrayaan-1. The data was analyzed by scientists from the Brown University, the University of Hawaii, the Colorado University in Boulder, the University of California, the Johns Hopkins University, and the experts from the Ames Research Center (NASA).
The fact that the moon has shadowed “pockets” of ice , the so-called “cold traps”, protected from direct rays of sunlight, astronomers have long suspected. Previous data obtained from the orbital lunar vehicles indicated this possibility. However, NASA notes that this is “the first time that scientists have been able to obtain convincing and direct evidence of its availability.”
The Indian Space Agency (ISRO) probe “Chandrayaan-1” was launched to the satellite of our planet in 2008. Its main purpose was to find confirmation of the presence of solid ice on the surface of the moon. An article from the PNAS journal reports that the M3 probe tool developed at NASA still managed to determine the reflective properties inherent in ice on the lunar surface. In addition, the apparatus was also able to directly determine the specific way in which ice molecules absorbed infrared radiation, which makes it possible to distinguish water in the liquid or gaseous state and solid ice.
“Most of the ice is in the shadow of craters near the poles, where the temperature does not rise above -250 degrees Fahrenheit (-156.5 degrees Celsius). Sunlight never enters these parts of the surface because of the slight inclination of the axis of rotation of the moon, “say the scientists who analyzed the data.
Map of the North and South Poles of the Moon, which shows the zones of the presence of water ice
Researchers also note that most of the detected ice reserves are mainly concentrated at the South Pole of the Moon, and at the North Pole these reserves are much smaller. The probe was not able to determine at what depth the ice is, but the study says that on the surface of the satellite, in the shadowed polar regions, it can contain up to 3.5 percent of all the ice available on the satellite.
In the opinion of scientists, before relying on these ice reserves in the framework of satellite colonization missions, we need to send several autonomous lunar rovers there and find out the real volumes of stocks and their location on or below the surface.
The presence of ice on the Moon does not simply mean the presence of a source of drinking water for future colonialists of the satellite. This also means the possibility of processing water into fuel. Splitting water into atoms and making oxygen and hydrogen out of it, the future inhabitants of the Moon will be able to produce fuel that can be used to further conquer the solar system.