Map Of The Moon’s Water Distribution Nets Surprises30th Mar 2023
The first map of the Moon’s water distribution on its surface could be utilised by explorers through the Artemis Programme. The mapping found water in unexpected locations, some of which could be of use to the astronauts. The programme will embark on a human expedition to the Earth’s neighbour to determine whether a prolonged human presence can be established on the Moon.
What did the study find?
A recent study completed by NASA and international partners has collated the first detailed map of the Moon’s water distribution on the Lunar surface. The team used the now-retired Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to create the comprehensive map. Through this research, scientists were able to identify how large regions – that they found contained – relate to the Moon’s surface features and how the characteristics of the distribution both favours cold areas and strays away from sunlight.
Scientists also found crucial information for how the Moon’s water distribution flows across the Lunar surface, and identified how water covers one-quarter of the Moon’s Earth-facing side below 60 degrees latitude. According to the research, there are clear and identifiable features that have hinted at how the water can move across the Lunar surface. The study also showed signs of movement particularity around the South Pole – a sign that is highly important for Moon exploration, reported NASA.
Why do we need a map of Lunar water?
This map is a key piece of the Lunar puzzle, as it allows researchers to identify ways that humanity could establish a prolonged presence on the Moon. Knowing where the Moon’s water is will greatly aid the Artemis Mission by highlighting areas of sustainable water sources. The map will also assist other programs to determine whether the Moon’s water is widespread and embedded in the surface, or whether it’s only scattered. Utilising the map of the Moon’s water distribution will also determine whether the Earth’s rocky neighbour can act as a base for the first human exploration mission to Mars can be established.
How is the United Kingdom playing a part in the Artemis Mission?
The Artemis Mission is essential for nations across the globe; this exploration, detailed in a recent study, has found that the Lunar economy has a value of up to £144 billion by 2040. Therefore, the UK is doing their part by providing contributions to the Lunar Gateway – a space station currently in development – and also tracking the first unmanned Artemis flight, which provided insights for the first manned mission planned for 2024. Additionally, the Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd’s Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft will provide integral communication and navigation services. The UK will also send payloads to the Moon’s surface through commercial partnerships.