Deposited in perpetually dark craters around the poles, the ice could be a boon for future crewed lunar outposts
The view that Earth’s moon is a dried out, desolate world may be all wet.
A new analysis of data from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan 1 orbiter, which operated at the moon from 2008 to 2009, has revealed what researchers say is definitive proof of water ice exposed on the lunar surface. Gathered by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) spectrometer onboard the Indian probe, the data all but confirm extensive-but-tentative evidence from earlier missions hinting at water ice deposits lurking in permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s poles. Such deposits could someday support crewed lunar outposts while also revealing previously hidden chapters of the moon’s history. The results appeared in a study published August 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Based on M3’s measurements of water ice’s near-infrared absorption features at and around the lunar poles, the study’s authors concluded the ice is only exposed in around 3.5 percent of the craters’ shadowed area, and is intermixed with large volumes of lunar dust. Such sparse coverage and heterogeneity suggests this lunar ice has a substantially different history than similar deposits found on other airless rocky worlds, such as Mercury and the dwarf planet Ceres, where water ice in permanently shadowed craters is more abundant and of greater purity.
Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt, Water Ice Exists on the Moon, Leonard David, Scientific American