(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has officially announced where it plans to probe the lunar surface for water ice – potentially a watershed moment in figuring out whether our natural satellite can provide a long-term human presence.
The robotic lander will land at the Moon’s South Pole near Shackleton Crater , which experts say contains abundant water ice. The lunar surface drilling will take place within 10 days of the launch, which is slated for December 2022.
The lander will test the effectiveness of three different technologies, including the Polar Resources Ice-Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) rig, which will drill through the lunar surface in search of ice. The PRIME-1 will be moved by a small deployable robot called Micro-Nova, developed by Intuitive Machines.
“The PRIME-1 will be permanently attached to the Micro-Nova, and it was difficult to find a landing site where we could find ice within three feet [about 90 centimeters] of the surface,” said project manager Jackie Quinn.
“There would be enough sunlight to power the equipment, but it makes the surface too warm for the ice to remain intact within the reach of the PRIME-1 rig,” she added. “We needed to find a Goldilocks site that receives a balanced amount of sunlight to meet mission requirements, and is a safe landing site with good communication with Earth .”
Once Micro-Nova finds a suitable location, likely within a nearby crater, the PRIME-1 rig will attempt to drill up to 90 centimeters deep to extract the soil to find water. An onboard mass spectrometer will check if volatile gases are emitted from the samples.
The Micro-Nova will be able to move a two-pound (about one kilogram) payload up to 2.5 kilometers, so we hope the PRIME-1 can get to a suitable place to collect samples.
The final element of the payload will be a Nokia of America experiment that aims to build a 4G / LTE network on a satellite, another major step to bring the moon closer to us than ever before.
According to NASA, if all goes well, it will be possible to broadcast HD video to Earth in the future.
Contact us: [email protected]