Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may have far more water ice than previously thought, new evidence suggests.
“If confirmed, this potential reservoir of frozen water on the Moon may be sufficiently massive to sustain long-term lunar exploration,” said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both Moon and Mercury, said the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
“We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon, and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California, Los Angeles.
In the past, telescopic observations and orbiting spacecraft have found glacier-like ice deposits on Mercury, but as of yet not on the Moon.
The new work raises the possibility that thick ice-rich deposits also exist on the Moon.
The research may not only help resolve the question regarding the Moon’s apparent low ice abundance relative to Mercury, but it could also have practical applications.
The poles of Mercury and the Moon are among the coldest places in our solar system. Unlike Earth, the spin axes of Mercury and the Moon are oriented such that, in their polar regions, the Sun never rises high above the horizon.
Consequently, polar topographic depressions, such as impact craters, never see the Sun. For decades it has been postulated these so-called permanently shadowed regions are so cold that any ice trapped within them can potentially survive for billions of years.
Previous observations of the poles of Mercury with Earth-based radar revealed a signature characteristic of thick, pure ice deposits. Later, NASA’s MESSENGER – the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft – imaged these ice deposits.
Previous radar and imaging studies of the Moon, whose polar thermal environments are very similar to those of Mercury, found only patchy, shallow ice deposits.
The study used elevation data obtained by MESSENGER and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to measure approximately 15,000 simple craters with diameters ranging from 2.5 km to 15 km on Mercury and the Moon.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 22 launched the Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission in order to explore the topography of the Moon and its composition and will search for water besides conducting in-situ studies.
The Chandrayaan-1 mission found evidence of water on the Moon. (IANS)
As NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon and ultimately send humans to Mars, teams across the space agency are working to build solutions for protecting the travellers from harmful radiation.
Some teams are developing technology such as wearable vests and devices that add mass and electrically charged surfaces that deflect radiation.
When NASA sends humans to the moon again, it would want them to stay there, unlike the Apollo mission 50 years ago. But long-time exposure to space radiation may raise health risks, including cancer. Developing solutions for shielding astronauts from space radiation is, therefore, very crucial.
Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are developing a way to make use of the mass on board the Orion spacecraft to protect the crew who venture into deep space.
NASA said Orion will be equipped with a radiation-sensing instrument integrated into the vehicle called the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA), to provide a warning if crew members need to take shelter in case of a radiation event such as a solar flare.
To protect themselves, astronauts will position themselves in the central part of the crew module largely reserved for storing items they will need during the flight and create a shelter using the stowage bags on board.
Anywhere the astronauts go, the scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston will keep watch over their space environment.
During a future Artemis mission, if a solar radiation squall were to occur while astronauts are beyond earth’s magnetic bubble, they might tell the crew to build a temporary shelter.
“Our strategy in space is to make use of whatever mass is available,” Johnson scientist Kerry Lee said in a statement on Thursday.
“We’re redistributing mass to fill in areas that are thinly shielded and getting crew members closer to the heavily shielded areas,” Lee added.
The more mass between the crew and radiation, the more likely that dangerous particles will deposit their energy before reaching the crew.
On the moon, astronauts could pile lunar soil, or regolith, over their shelters, taking advantage of their environment’s natural shielding materials.
“It’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to fly dedicated radiation-shielding mass,” Lee said.
“Every item you fly will have to be multi-purpose,” he added.
US President Donald Trump’s administration earlier directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024 and then go forward to Mars. NASA has named this programme “Artemis” in honour of Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, the Moon Goddess.
NASA last month said that the Orion crew capsule is ready for its first unmanned trip to the moon. (IANS)
The US space agency has selected 13 firms — including Blue Origin of Jeff Bezos and SpaceX of Elon Musk — to develop space technologies as it prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis mission and, later, the Red Planet.
Various NASA centres will partner with the companies — which range from small businesses with fewer than a dozen employees to large aerospace organizations — to provide expertise, facilities, hardware and software at no cost, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We’ve identified technology areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
Lockheed Martin will work with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to test materials made from metal powders using solid-state processing to improve the design of spacecraft that operate in high-temperature environments.
Blue Origin will collaborate with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Goddard to mature a navigation and guidance system for safe and precise landing at a range of locations on the Moon.
Blue Origin will also partner with Glenn and Johnson to mature a fuel cell power system for the company’s Blue Moon lander.
The system could provide uninterrupted power during the lunar night, which lasts for about two weeks in most locations.
“Blue Origin, Marshall and Langley will evaluate and mature high-temperature materials for liquid rocket engine nozzles that could be used on lunar landers,” said NASA.
SpaceX will work with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to advance their technology to vertically land large rockets on the Moon. This includes advancing models to assess engine plume interaction with lunar regolith.
SpaceX will also work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle.
The space agency has doubled down on its next giant leap with the Artemis mission that would take “the first woman and the next man” to the lunar surface.
The programme includes an unmanned mission around the Moon in 2020 and a manned mission that also will orbit the Moon two years later.
Returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation. (IANS)
It was in 1950s when mission to the moon caught the fancy of several countries. But in sometime they were abandoned. In fact, the moon itself became an abandoned planet, said M. Annadurai, former Director, U.R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Lately, the moon is back into trend again. And this could be credited to India’s first moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 which found water molecules on the moon, Annadurai, who was the key man behind that mission, told IANS.
The former Soviet Union (now Russia) and the US had undertaken several moon missions since 1958.
However, it was the Soviet mission in September 1959 that succeeded first when its lunar impactor carried by its rocket Luna landed on the moon’s surface. The next month Russia followed it by a flyby mission.
After that, there were several failed attempts made by Russia and the US to land on the moon.
In July 1964, the US achieved success with its impactor landed on the moon surface. The spacecraft Ranger-7 was carried by its rocket Atlas LV-3 Agena B.
In 1966, Russia’s Luna-9 became the first spacecraft to land on the moon. The same year, the US made a successful landing with its lander on the moon.
The first crewed mission to the moon was by the US in December 1968. The spacecraft Apollo-8 orbited the moon and returned back to Earth.
The first human moon landing mission was launched by the US on July 16, 1969 with Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to step on the moon on July 21, 1969.
Later, Japan sent up its lunar mission in 1990, followed by the European Space Agency in 2003.
Asian giant China started its moon mission in 2007 with its orbiter. The country landed its rover on the moon in 2013. Earlier this year, China landed its spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
On its part, India began its moon mission on October 22, 2008 with its spacecraft Chandrayaan-1. The country also landed its Moon Impact Probe on November 14, 2008, thereby becoming the fourth country to have a touch down on the moon surface.
The most notable finding of the mission was the presence of water molecules on moon which in turn has revived the interest on moon missions. (IANS)