Newscast Media — NASA scientists recently discovered large amounts of water ice as the agency explored the moon using India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. Scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, Synthetic Aperture Radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.
The Mini-SAR has imaged many of the permanently shadowed regions that exist at both poles of the Moons. These dark areas are extremely cold and it has been hypothesized that volatile material, including water ice, could be present in quantity here. The main science object of the Mini-SAR experiment is to map and characterize any deposits that exist.
The estimated amount of water ice potentially present is comparable to the quantity estimated solely from the previous mission of Lunar Prospector’s neutron data (several hundred million metric tons.) The variation in the estimates between Mini-SAR and the Lunar Prospector’s neutron spectrometer is due to the fact that it only measures to depths of about one-half meter, so it would underestimate the total quantity of water ice present. At least some of the polar ice is mixed with lunar soil and thus, invisible to our radar.
“The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon,” said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.
“The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought.”
“After analyzing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit,” said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.