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Moon, Mercury May Have Far More Water Ice Than Previously Thought

The Chandrayaan-1 mission found evidence of water on the Moon

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Full Moon, Anniversary, NASA
The moon is seen during a lunar eclipse known as the "Super Blood Wolf Moon," in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 21, 2019. VOA

Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may have far more water ice than previously thought, new evidence suggests.

“If confirmed, this potential reservoir of frozen water on the Moon may be sufficiently massive to sustain long-term lunar exploration,” said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both Moon and Mercury, said the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon, and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the past, telescopic observations and orbiting spacecraft have found glacier-like ice deposits on Mercury, but as of yet not on the Moon.

The new work raises the possibility that thick ice-rich deposits also exist on the Moon.

The research may not only help resolve the question regarding the Moon’s apparent low ice abundance relative to Mercury, but it could also have practical applications.

Mercury
We know so little about the planet Mercury. 

The poles of Mercury and the Moon are among the coldest places in our solar system. Unlike Earth, the spin axes of Mercury and the Moon are oriented such that, in their polar regions, the Sun never rises high above the horizon.

Consequently, polar topographic depressions, such as impact craters, never see the Sun. For decades it has been postulated these so-called permanently shadowed regions are so cold that any ice trapped within them can potentially survive for billions of years.

Previous observations of the poles of Mercury with Earth-based radar revealed a signature characteristic of thick, pure ice deposits. Later, NASA’s MESSENGER – the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft – imaged these ice deposits.

Previous radar and imaging studies of the Moon, whose polar thermal environments are very similar to those of Mercury, found only patchy, shallow ice deposits.

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The study used elevation data obtained by MESSENGER and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to measure approximately 15,000 simple craters with diameters ranging from 2.5 km to 15 km on Mercury and the Moon.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 22 launched the Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission in order to explore the topography of the Moon and its composition and will search for water besides conducting in-situ studies.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission found evidence of water on the Moon. (IANS)

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NASA Explore Technology To Build Future Homes Made of Fungi For Moon, Mars

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat

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NASA
Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could "grow" habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life - specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia. Pixabay

Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

Creating a livable home for future astronauts means doing more than growing a roof to go over their heads. Astronauts will need to have all their basic needs met, just like on Earth, and face the additional challenges of living in a harsh environment on a distant world, the US space agency said in a statement.

Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life – specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle – carrying our homes with us on our backs – a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” said Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the early-stage project.

“Instead, we can harness mycelia (vegetative part of a fungus) to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there”. Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars.

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat – all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

Mycelia are tiny threads that build complex structures with extreme precision, networking out into larger structures like mushrooms.
With the right conditions, they can be coaxed into making new structures – ranging from a material similar to leather to the building blocks for a Mars habitat.

NASA
Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well. Pixabay

That last layer of mycelia is what organically grows into a sturdy home, first activated to grow in a contained environment and then baked to kill the lifeforms – providing structural integrity and ensuring no life contaminates Mars and any microbial life that’s already there. Even if some mycelia somehow escaped, they will be genetically altered to be incapable of surviving outside the habitat, said NASA.

Mycelia could also be used for water filtration and biomining systems that can extract minerals from wastewater – another project active in Rothschild’s lab – as well as bioluminescent lighting, humidity regulation and even self-generating habitats capable of healing themselves. And with about 40% of carbon emissions on Earth coming from construction, there’s an ever-increasing need for sustainable and affordable housing here as well.

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The harsh environments of the Moon and Mars will require new ways of living – growing homes instead of building them, mining minerals from sewage instead of rock. “But by turning to the elegant systems of our own natural world, we can design solutions that are green and sustainable. Whether on distant worlds or our own ever-changing Earth, fungi could be what brings us boldly into the future,” said NASA. (IANS)