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NASA’s LRO Spacecraft Observes Water Movement on Moon

Scientists had hypothesised that hydrogen ions in the solar wind may be the source of most of the Moon's surface water

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Then one male astronaut and - for the first time - a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024. Pixabay

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has observed water molecules moving around the dayside of the Moon, a finding that may prove beneficial as the agency plans to put astronauts back on the lunar surface.

Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) — the instrument aboard LRO — measured sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the Moon’s surface, which helped characterise lunar hydration changes over the course of a day, revealed the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“The study is an important step in advancing the water story on the Moon and is a result of years of accumulated data from the LRO mission,” said John Keller, LRO deputy project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

Until the last decade, scientists thought that the Moon was arid, with any water existing mainly as pockets of ice in permanently shaded craters near the poles.

NASA, water on moon
Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management. Pixabay

More recently, they identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith.

But, the amount and locations were found to vary based on the time of day. The lunar water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.

Scientists had hypothesised that hydrogen ions in the solar wind may be the source of most of the Moon’s surface water. As a result, when the Moon passes behind the Earth and is shielded from the solar wind, the “water spigot” should essentially turn off.

However, the water observed by LAMP does not decrease when the Moon is shielded by the Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, suggesting water builds up over time, rather than “raining” down directly from the solar wind.

 

NASA, water on earth
More recently, they identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith. Pixabay

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“These results aid in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help us learn about accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon,” said lead author Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

“Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable,” Hendrix added. (IANS)

Next Story

NASA Making a ‘Rigorous’ Search for Vikram with Fresh Lunar Pictures

LRO will next fly around the region on November 10 and it will be another good opportunity with favourable lighting conditions for pictures, Petro said

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NASA also plans to build a space outpost in lunar orbit that can relay astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. VOA

BY ARUL LOUIS

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has taken a fresh set of pictures under better lighting conditions of the area where the Indian moon lander Vikram likely ended up and experts will be making a rigorous search for it, according to LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro.

“The lighting conditions on Monday were much more favourable, (with) less shadow in the region” compared to last month, Petro told IANS on Wednesday.

Scientists were not able to locate the Vikram in the pictures taken during the LRO’s last flyover on September 17, when it was dusk on the moon and the long shadows that covered much of the terrain may be hidden in it, NASA said at that time.

“We flew over the landing site on Monday and the camera team is still evaluating images, so we should know more in the next few days,” Noah said.

Chandrayaan 2, India, Moon
Chandrayaan-2, India’s ambitious expedition to the moon’s south pole, made headlines globally even as Vikram, the lander of the mission, lost contact with the orbiter. Pixabay

“We will do a careful search, we will be as rigorous as possible” and “we will find out soon” what happened to the Vikram moon lander, said Petro, who is based at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland near Washington.

“This is a large area, we don’t know exactly where we have to look. So it will take some time to search the images because we are looking over a very, very large area,” he added.

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Vikram lost contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) following its launch from Chandraayan 2 moon orbiter on September 6 and likely landed in an area around the moon’s South Pole.

LRO will next fly around the region on November 10 and it will be another good opportunity with favourable lighting conditions for pictures, Petro said. (IANS)