It’s official: There’s water ice on the surface of the moon. Researchers have confirmed the presence of the frozen stuff on the ground around the lunar north and south poles, a new study reports. That’s good news for anyone eager to see humanity return to the moon for more than just a flag-planting mission.
By Mike Wall | SPACE.com
„With enough ice sitting at the surface — within the top few millimeters — water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the moon’s surface,“ NASA officials wrote in a statement Monday (Aug. 20). [The Search for Water on the Moon in Pictures]
As that statement indicates, scientists already knew that the lunar underground isn’t bone-dry. For example, in 2009, an impactor released by NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) blasted a bunch of water into space after slamming into a permanently shadowed region of Cabeus Crater, which lies near the moon’s south pole.
But it wasn’t clear from the LCROSS data where, exactly, that excavated ice originally lay — how much gray dirt once sat atop it. And, while several instruments have spotted tantalizing hints of exposed lunar ice over the years, these detections had remained unconfirmed until now.
„Previous observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice at the lunar south pole, but these could have been explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil,“ NASA officials wrote in the same statement.