Ice May Lurk in Shadows Beyond Moon's
Craters far from the moon's poles
may harbor frozen
Water ice on the moon may be more widespread than previously thought.
Permanent shadows have been spotted far
from the lunar poles, expanding the number of sites that would be
good candidates for exploration by robotic rovers - or even for the
locations of lunar bases.
But over the past few months,
researchers have built a catalogue of permanently shadowed regions
elsewhere on the Moon.
The software identified about 100 craters that should contain permanent shadows, located as many as 58 degrees of latitude from the pole in both hemispheres, reported team member Joshua Cahill, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid this week.
The result is being prepared for
publication in Icarus, he said.
Water ice on the Moon exists in such low concentrations that any mission that seeks to study it, or to use it as a resource, will need a detailed map of its distribution.
The craters are only half the temperature of their better-lit surroundings, but they still reach an average of 175 Kelvin - hot enough to boil water in the moon's thin atmosphere - so any water ice must be insulated beneath the surface.
That team is now characterizing other potential permanently shadowed regions using LRO data.
They made a preliminary report at the March Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. Radar instruments on orbiting spacecraft allow some study of the ice, but close-up observations are needed to confirm any findings, says Speyerer.
Some technological ingenuity will be required to allow the solar-powered rovers to operate in the shadowy depths of the craters.
Cahill's group has also used LunarShader to identify which parts of the permanently shadowed regions would be most accessible to a rover.
To explore the deepest craters, Cahill
imagines rovers or landers with solar panels on a mast up to ten
meters high, acting like a 'solar snorkel'.