An important step towards longer manned missions to the Moon is finding a source of water. If future astronauts have water available on the moon, they can stay much longer than if they had to carry a large amount of heavy water on their journey from Earth. Recent research has shown that craters near the lunar poles could contain frozen water, and that even tiny amounts of liquid water could flow across the lunar surface. However, scientists are not sure if this water has its source. Therefore, it is difficult to predict where it is located.
In a new study, the age and origin of the lunar water were studied and found to have multiple sources. Some of the ice deposits seem billions of years old, while others are younger.
The researchers used data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study craters near the South Pole, where evidence of water was found. They analyzed the age of these craters and found that the ice in them could not be older than 3.1
The researchers also looked for more clues about the age of the deposits by analyzing their depth. "There have been models of bombing over time, showing that the ice begins to concentrate with depth. So, if you have a surface layer that's old, expect more of that, "said Brown University researcher Ariel Deutsch.
Most of the analyzed deposits actually seemed ancient. But there were also deposits in some smaller craters with sharper edges that seemed to be younger. "It was a surprise. So far, hardly any ice observations have been carried out in recent cold traps.
These results could help future manned lunar missions by determining the availability of resources. "When we think about sending people back to the Moon for long-term research, we need to know what resources we can count on, and we do not know it right now," said Professor Jim Head, co-author of Brown University's study, in the same Statement. "Studies like these help us make predictions about where to go to answer these questions."
The study was published in the journal Icarus.