NASA To Check For Water On Moon Through Lasers
The Lunar Flashlight will be used to search for water ice exposures in Moon's permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) near the poles
NASA first announced the Artemis mission back in May 2019. The mission involves sending the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. The Artemis mission aims to explore the Moon’s surface using innovative technologies.
In a recently published paper, NASA has gone into further detail about its plan to check for water on the Moon with a Laser flashlight. NASA has described the Flashlight like a small satellite that will be used to search for water ice exposures in Moon’s permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) near the poles.
This satellite link will be the size of a briefcase that will detect naturally-occurring surface ice believed to exist at the bottom of darkest craters. To detect the presence of water, the Lunar Flashlight will beam its laser over Moon’s south pole into permanently shadowed regions for the course of two months. These dark craters, identified as ‘cold traps’, accumulate molecules of water ice among other ice compounds.
Barbara Cohen, who is a scientist on the mission, explained it in the paper.
“The Sun moves around the crater horizon but never actually shines into the crater. Because these craters are so cold, these molecules never receive enough energy to escape, so they become trapped and accumulate over billions of years.”
The Lunar Flashlight will beam near-infrared wavelengths that are absorbed by water. If the lasers hit bare rocks in the dark craters, the light will reflect back to the satellite but if the light is absorbed, it would confirm the presence of water ice in these lunar caves.
John Baker, who is the Lunar Flashlight project manager at JPL, added that the Lunar Flashlight is a lower-cost technology demonstration mission. Not only can it advance out scientific knowledge, but it can also prepare astronauts for a possible extended stay on the Moon.