Moonlight will search for water in the ancient craters of our satellite

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — One of the ways in which NASA hopes to reduce the cost of completing lunar missions and make them more viable is to collect and use resources already available on the satellite. In particular, space agencies around the world are exploring the possibility of producing water ice, which can be turned into drinking water, oxygen or even rocket fuel using appropriate equipment.

“Although we have fairly good reasons to believe that there is ice inside the coldest and darkest craters of the moon, the previous measurements were a bit ambiguous. From a scientific point of view, this is normal, but if we plan to send astronauts there to get ice and use it for drinking, we must be sure of its existence, ”said Barbara Cohen, a lead mission researcher at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

To search for water ice , Lunar Flashlight (literally translated as “Moonlight”), developed at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Cubesat, 12 × 24 × 36 centimeters in size, will be used . Kubsats have a number of drawbacks due to their limited volume, but they are very versatile, especially when it comes to testing technologies, which can then be incorporated into subsequent flagship missions. They are also cheap to manufacture and do not require a special launch vehicle to put into orbit.

The satellite weighing 14 kg will be powered by solar panels and driven by four engines running on new environmentally friendly fuel. Its main scientific instrument is a four-laser reflectometer, which will be used to study the depths of lunar craters. Lunar Flashlight will do ten orbits around the moon, distributed over a two-month observation phase. It will fly in a low orbit over the south pole of the moon and scan the surface, making a map of ice deposits in cold traps, places where sunlight does not penetrate.

“The sun moves around the crater, but in fact never shines directly into it. Because these craters are so cold, water molecules never get enough energy to escape from there, so they fall into a trap and accumulate over billions of years,” Barbara Cohen.

The Lunar Flashlight four-laser reflectometer will use near-infrared wavelengths that are readily absorbed by water to identify ice accumulations on the surface. The soil covering the surface of the moon, known as regolith, does not absorb infrared light like water ice. Therefore, the greater the absorption of light in the crater, the more ice can be hidden there.

The launch of the “moonlight” is scheduled for April 2021. At the end of the mission to map the ice in the lunar craters, the kubat will be defeated, crashing into the south pole of the moon.

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