Confirmed for the first time: there’s ice on the surface of the Moon

Anyone who wants to stay on the Moon for a long time (for example, in their own base) will need water. It has been known for some time that water exists buried deep in the Moon’s rocks, but of course it would be easier to reach if it were directly on the surface. Using data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument, a research team led by Shuai Li from the University of Hawaii and Brown University has now shown that water is just waiting to be collected from permanently shaded areas of craters in the Moon’s north and south poles.

M3 was launched on board the Indian Chandrayaan-1 probe in 2008. Most of the ice has been found at the poles in craters that never receive direct sunlight. There, temperatures never rise above 110 Kelvin (negative 163 degrees Celsius). Overall, however, the scientists found surprisingly little ice. These findings, they believe, are due to the fact that water-rich objects very rarely impact these areas. Existing ice deposits also might have been destroyed by polar wander.

This picture shows the distribution of water ice at the Moon’s south pole (left) and north pole (right). (picture: NASA)

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