If humans ever move to the moon, we'll need a steady supply of the two most basic elements for life: Sunlight and water. The lunar poles have long been prime candidates for settlement, because they're exposed to sunlight almost all the time and because for at least three years now, scientists have known they contain water. One particular promising crater just had its water content freshly measured, and there's plenty of ice.
The Shackleton crater, named for the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, is right near the moon's south pole and is half-shadowed all the time. It is super reflective, especially relative to other craters nearby, which could indicate the presence of lots of ice. Moon mapper extraordinaire Maria Zuber and her colleagues checked this with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The team measured the crater's albedo with a laser altimeter on board LRO, and found ice may constitute about 22 percent of the surface material. But it's only a micron-thick layer in the 2-mile-deep crater. That's almost as deep as Earth's oceans.
The team also found that while the crater's surface is bright, its walls are even brighter, which was at first surprising. Any ice couldn't survive on those walls because it would sublimate into space the moment it was exposed to sunlight. But it turns out it may not be ice after all, but brighter lunar soil. Small moonquakes could cause some of the crater walls to slough off darker lunar regolith and expose fresh soil underneath, according to NASA. Zuber said the newer soil and the ice on the floor could both explain the crater's unusual brightness. Other than the occasional wall-shaking, the crater is remarkably pristine, having changed very little since its formation 3 billion years ago.
Nailing down Shackleton's ice content is just one more piece in the ongoing puzzle over lunar water supplies. To really determine how much water is locked up in the moon's permanently shadowed regions, NASA will have to send a lander. Results like this could help decide where to send it. The paper appears this week in Nature.
Shackleton... What a perfect name for a penal colony...
This is very cool and good news to find so much water at the poles and this Shackleton Crater. I do hope the USA does settle and make a lunar base station on the moon; a leaping off point to explorer out solar system!
Hopefully, the ice is actually thicker than just 1 micron, I believe the NASA laser is limited to being able to measure 1 micron in depth.
1 micron thick ice spread over a roughly circular crater 21 kilometers in diameter would be a total of around 346 cubic meters. A colony could live with that much water, if properly recycled, but you wouldn't be able to waste very much of it on things like rocket fuel production.
I hope the lunar monstrous rocks from Apollo 18 do not reside in this Shackleton Crater. That would be just as bad a peeing in Titan's ocean and very not nice space neighborly or inhospitable.
Every day is a new day!
a micron thick level of ice....i sure hope that was just the limit of the instrument...
I can tell that there is rocky planet that has water in its atmosphere light years away but can't tell that there is H2O in a crater on a moon that is only 1/4 million miles away that has already been probed and visited. If there is water on the moon our government(as well as others) knows exactly where and how much. Otherwise, why is there now a resurging clamor to once again get there and establish bases. The actual discovery of water changes the whole paradigm of how humans take steps to live and further their "Trek" into the cosmos. Why has " low earth orbit" been relegated to private enterprise? The next big thing we will see is permanent space ships and space docks to build them. It is the only logical next step. Building a new ship to transport goods and materials is not economically feasable every time you wish to make a delivery. The Space shuttle was key in establishing concept viability. Technologies are coming with nano science that will revolutionize space travel as we know it. Private enterprise has to develop the manufacturing systems in space to deploy these massive as I will say" Star Ships".
Currently there is no government willing to take on the the economic dollars that will be needed to accomplish such a feat other than China. We are depening on privitization they are on their new found economic status. No one country has the technology or industrial know how to make it happen. It eventually will but cooperation would make it faster. I am too old to see it but I hope my prodigy will.
Man I love science. It intriques the mind to wonder how and embelishes the soul to wonder why?