If humans are ever to inhabit the moon, the lunar poles may well be the location of choice: Because of the small tilt of the lunar spin axis, the poles contain regions of near-permanent sunlight, needed for power, and regions of near-permanent darkness containing ice — both of which would be essential resources for any lunar colony.
The area around the moon's Shackleton crater could be a prime site. Scientists have long thought that the crater — whose interior is a permanently sunless abyss — may contain reservoirs of frozen water. But inconsistent observations over the decades have cast doubt on whether ice might indeed exist in the shadowy depths of the crater, which sits at the moon's south pole.
Now scientists from MIT, Brown University, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and other institutions have mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, finding possible evidence for small amounts of ice on the crater's floor. Using a laser altimeter on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, the team essentially illuminated the crater's interior with laser light, measuring its albedo, or natural reflectance. The scientists found that the crater's floor is in fact brighter than that of other nearby craters — an observation consistent with the presence of ice, which the team calculates may make up 22 percent of the material within a micron-thick layer on the crater's floor.
Read more at MIT News: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/shackletons-crater-0620.html
All images courtesy NASA/Zuber, M.T. et al., Nature, 2012
Tagged under: Moon (Moon),Moon,lunar exploration,space exploration,spacecraft,planetary science,solar system,water moon,MIT,aerospace
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