‘Definitive’ proof of ice on the moon
Scientists say they have found the first “definitive” evidence of water ice on the surface of the moon—a discovery that, if confirmed, significantly raises the chances of mankind one day building a lunar colony. The researchers based their claim on data gathered by NASA’s moon mineralogy mapper (M3), an infrared-measuring instrument that flew on India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon a decade ago. In a fresh analysis of that data, they found evidence of patchy ice deposits on the lunar poles of earth’s satellite. In the south, the ice appears to be concentrated in craters; in the north, it is more widely but sparsely spread out. Although lunar temperatures can reach a toasty 242 degrees Fahrenheit in direct sunlight, parts of the moon’s poles are always in the dark, reports Scientific American. Scientists believe temperatures in these areas stay below -250 degrees Fahrenheit—cold enough for water ice to remain stable for long periods in the airless environment. The ice could potentially be used for future lunar missions, either as drinking water or split into hydrogen and oxygen to create breathable air or rocket fuel. Lead author Shuai Li, a planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says previous finds of moon “water” were really just detections of hydrogen-enriched minerals. The “very unique” features displayed in the M3 data, he says, provide incontrovertible proof of water ice.