Lunar lander emissions may interfere with lunar ice exploration

(ORDO NEWS) — In a new study, a team of scientists led by Parvathy Prem of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, US, demonstrates that emissions from a medium-sized lunar lander can quickly spread across the lunar surface and potentially complicate scientific research on ice. located in the polar craters of our planet’s natural satellite.

Computer modeling of water vapor generated during fuel combustion in the engines of a descent vehicle weighing 1200 kilograms, which lands in the region of the moon’s south pole, showed that in just a few hours the emissions would spread over the entire surface of the Earth’s satellite. Between 30 and 40 percent of water vapor is retained in the lunar atmosphere and on the surface two months after landing, and about 20 percent eventually condenses into ice at the lunar poles.

The problem of engine emissions entering the lunar atmosphere as a result of a spacecraft landing is not new: it has been studied since the 60s. 20th century, when NASA’s Apollo lunar missions were planned. However, now this problem is gaining increasing importance, since, while the main purpose of the Apollo missions was to collect lunar soil, modern lunar missions planned for the near future aim to study water ice located in circumpolar lunar craters, its isotopic composition and other properties.

The formation on the surface of the lunar ice deposits of a thin crust of water ice formed as a result of condensation of steam emitted during fuel combustion in the braking engines of the descent vehicle can significantly distort the measurement results, the authors note.

At present, Prem and her colleagues plan to improve their model by introducing into it the results of measurements of water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere and on the lunar surface during future landings of various vehicles on its surface and correcting with their help the received coefficient reflecting the ability of water vapor to remain on the lunar surface for a long time.

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