published on 14 October 2019 in space
New research to date ice on the Moon
A team of researchers at Brown University, supported by NASA, has conducted a new study to date the ice deposits in lunar craters. The first stage in the research to establish the age of the ice was to date the craters, using data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting around the Moon since 2009. Establishing the age of lunar ice deposits is important not only from a scientific point of view but also in function of future lunar explorations, which could use this ice. Furthermore, the age of the deposits could provide information on the origin of the ice, information that, in turn, could help researchers to understand the sources and the distribution of water in the Solar System.
Results show that most of the ice deposits detected is located inside large craters formed around 3 billion years ago: the ice therefore cannot be any older. Additionally, the irregular distribution of the ice in the craters would seem to indicate that it has been battered by micrometeorites and other debris for long periods of time, and that therefore it is ancient. The research team has also detected traces of ice in smaller, apparently more recent craters. This ice may have a source different from that of the ancient ice, which very probably originates from comets and asteroids or from the volcanic activity of the Moon. To obtain more certain and clearer information, it will be necessary to send spacecraft onto the surface of the Moon. This cannot be done until the launch of NASA’s Artemis program, scheduled for 2024, which besides putting the first woman and the next man on the Moon, also plans missions with robot spacecraft, which will supply data that will help the researchers to understand more.