NASA Planning to Explore Moon's Icy South Pole by 2024

Wednesday, 17 April 2019 - 9:34AM
Moon
Space
Wednesday, 17 April 2019 - 9:34AM
NASA Planning to Explore Moon's Icy South Pole by 2024
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Adapted from Pixabay images
On the heels of President Trump's directive to put "American astronauts launched by American rockets from American soil" on the moon's surface by 2024, NASA has announced plans to explore the lunar terrain of the celestial body's south pole, which was confirmed to contain water ice last year. The announcement was made yesterday by NASA Science Mission Directorate deputy associate administrator Steven Clarke. 


"We know the South Pole region contains ice and may be rich in other resources based on our observations from orbit, but, otherwise, it's a completely unexplored world," Clarke said. "The South Pole is far from the Apollo landing sites clustered around the equator, so it will offer us a new challenge and a new environment to explore as we build our capabilities to travel farther into space."


Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


The ice is located in shadowed craters, protected from sunlight by the moon's tilt, and is thought to be ancient, rather than seasonal. On the poles, winter may well be eternal. Astronauts visiting the south pole will need to bring a coat or two: the moon's pole temperatures never exceed -250º F (-156.6º C), with some craters dipping to -414º F (-248 Celsius). Despite this, NASA notes, some areas – including those around the Shackleton Crater, shown in the center of the illumination map above – can receive over 200 days of sunlight, which would allow explorers ample time to charge solar-powered equipment.


And of course, the question of whether or not liquid water exists in any meaningful quantity remains to be answered.


"With enough ice sitting at the surface-within the top few millimeters-water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon," NASA said in a press release last August, "and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon's surface."

Science
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