Maps of Moon’s south pole present context for astronaut visits – Astronomy Now

May 20, 2019 - Comment

A view of the Moon between 80 levels south latitude and the south pole primarily based on knowledge from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s laser altimeter. Completely shadowed areas that by no means obtain daylight – attainable sources of ice – are proven in purple outlines with black fill. Picture: Stopar J. and Meyer H./Lunar and



A view of the Moon between 80 levels south latitude and the south pole primarily based on knowledge from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s laser altimeter. Completely shadowed areas that by no means obtain daylight – attainable sources of ice – are proven in purple outlines with black fill. Picture: Stopar J. and Meyer H./Lunar and Planetary Institute Regional Planetary Picture Facility

The Trump administration has directed NASA to ship astronauts again to the floor of the Moon by the tip of 2024. The company’s goal is the Moon’s south polar area, the place completely shadowed craters present the fixed low temperatures wanted to lure huge reservoirs of ice – a possible supply of rocket gasoline, air and water.

To assist mission planners higher perceive the area, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, or LPI, is offering a brand new atlas of kinds overlaying the south polar area at various scales full with colour-coded elevations that clearly spotlight areas the place ice could be discovered, together with lighted areas the place future crews might generate solar energy to extract it.

The brand new atlas options 14 topographic maps primarily based on high-resolution knowledge from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, together with digital elevation fashions derived from the spacecraft’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter.

“There are various thrilling locations to discover on the Moon, however the south pole has lengthy held promise for a sustainable human presence,” stated Julie Stopar, director of the Regional Planetary Picture Facility on the LPI. “This assortment can help mission planners on this new period of south pole exploration.”

A closeup of the Moon’s south pole. Picture: Stopar J. and Meyer H./Lunar and Planetary Institute Regional Planetary Picture Facility

On the Moon’s poles, the Solar by no means climbs a lot greater that a few diploma above the horizon. Over the course of a yr, the Solar’s place alongside the horizon modifications and whereas the angles and lengths of shadows replicate that altering place, the depths of some craters and different low-elevation areas by no means obtain any daylight. The ensuing fixed low temperatures can lure water ice that in any other case would sublimate away.

Whereas it might not be simple, future astronauts might be able to use solar-powered electrolysis to interrupt ice down into hydrogen and oxygen, permitting them, in a way, to reside off the land.

“Water-ice trapped close to the lunar poles is especially of curiosity for future explorers, as it might function a prepared supply of breathable air, drinkable water and spacecraft propellant,” the LPI famous when asserting the south pole atlas. “The brand new south pole maps can be utilized to determine and characterise topographically elevated (and illuminated) areas in addition to completely shadowed areas.”



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