Ice on the Moon’s poles! – Chandrayaan-1 anniversary special

Today’s Moon Monday featured image is a special one, in time for the 10th anniversary of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter mission.

Distribution of surface ice (shown in blue) at the Moon’s south pole (left) and north pole (right) by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument. Credits: NASA JPL

As announced this year, NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument onboard Chandrayaan-1 found definitive evidence of water ice on the Moon. Most of the ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the temperatures never cross minus 150 degrees Celsius.

Observations from Clementine, Lunar Prospector, LRO and Cassini missions have found indirect signs of water ice on the lunar poles. But data from the M3 instrument (made by NASA’s JPL) is the first definitive evidence of water ice on the lunar surface. It saw not just the reflection expected from ice, but also measured the distinct ways in which water molecules absorb infrared light, allowing it to differentiate between ice, liquid water or water vapor.

Developing technologies that allow tapping into this water ice maybe key to long-term human habitats on the Moon.


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