The Future of Lunar Prospecting

Image credit: NASA

Since the discovery of water ice within permanently shadowed regions at the poles of the Moon, scientists and engineers have been working together toward the goal of using this water ice to support a sustained human presence on the lunar surface and facilitate future space exploration. For example, both hydrogen and oxygen can be extracted from water (H2O) to produce rocket propellant on the Moon, eliminating the need to transport fuel as heavy payload from Earth. A new study by Kevin Cannon and Daniel Britt of the University of Central Florida puts forward a geologic model for how the ice deposits might have formed and evolved, considering both exogenic and endogenic sources such as asteroids and volcanic degassing, respectively. They found that over time, impacts affect lunar ice, leading to burial and formation of deeper ice deposits, as well as a relatively uniform distribution of the ice on the meter-to-hectare scale. The study predicts that the most favorable ice deposits for mining are likely tens of centimeters or deeper within the lunar regolith. Such models will help inform future lunar prospecting campaign planning and hardware development. READ MORE