NSD LogoUsing data from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft, that was launched by India 10 years ago, NASA on Tuesday said that scientists have found frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon’s polar regions.
Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon.
M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.
It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapor and solid ice.
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.
The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient. At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the north pole’s ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.
Most of the new-found water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degrees Celsius. Due to the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.
Learning more about this ice, how it got there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment will be a key mission focus for NASA and commercial partners, as humans endeavor to return to and explore the Moon.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, barely a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.
The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near-infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions.
One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both the near and far side of the moon.
It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron, and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium, and Thorium with high spatial resolution.