Astronomers have built a model that estimates the probability of finding ice in different regions of the moon, reported in the journal Icarus. Scientists hope that in the future it will help when choosing a place to create a base for the extraction of fuel for spacecraft.
For exploration of the Solar system and objects beyond, the spacecraft must be able to participate in long term missions. One of the obstacles standing now before the people, — fuel. In space, no petrol stations, where piloted vehicles could replenish their stocks this means that all programs will be limited to the amount of fuel on Board.
As a possible solution it is proposed to mine the resources on other celestial bodies like the moon. This will help not only to increase the duration of missions, but also can reduce the cost of flights. One of the main sources of fuel is considered today as water ice, from which to obtain hydrogen. Despite the fact that past research has repeatedly shown that in the craters of the satellite can actually be deposits of frozen water, astronomers still try to get more information about its distribution on the surface.
Kevin cannon (Kevin M. Cannon) and Daniel Britt (T. Britt Daniel) from the University of Central Florida has built a model that allows to estimate the probability of finding ice in certain areas of the moon at scales from tens of meters to hectares. The researchers used data collected by satellites, as well as during the first lunar missions. The focus of the model is given to sources of water ice, which, basically, are falling to the moon asteroids and comets, and the process of capturing molecules on the surface and under it. To check their results, the astronomers conducted a simulation of the impact event and considered how to evolve the deposits of ice.
Simulations showed that the distribution of ice because of the falling asteroids should be relatively homogeneous in scale from meters to hectares. High concentrations of water ice will be placed randomly and do not accumulate in certain areas, as on Earth. The model showed that the main reservoir will be at a depth of at least 10 centimeters, even in those places where conditions are relatively stable on the surface.
In addition, scientists have created an index of favorability of conditions for the existence of ice, taking into account how well are captured and held water molecules in a particular region. This index, researchers applied it to the South pole of the moon. One of the highest values were at the crater Cabio, which probably reflects its antiquity, as well as the presence of large cold traps, and one of the lowest — near the Shackleton crater.
The researchers hope that their model will help in the future teams working on projects for the production of ice on the moon, to determine the best place to land. However, the researchers note that their work does not give precise data on the deposits.
Recently, NASA presented the detailed design of the spacecraft Lunar Flashlight and using a laser will search for ice deposits for future missions. It will light the lunar soil and reflected radiation will determine if there is ice on the surface. In addition, in the past scientists have managed to create a quantitative map of the distribution of water ice on the surface on the basis of spectroscopic data.