The US space agency NASA has launched various missions to return humans to the moon. However, the search for water under the lunar surface remains the biggest stumbling block in launching missions that ensure the long-term presence of humans.
The good news is that the space agency said there may be reservoirs of water ice that could be purified as drinking water, turned into breathable oxygen, and used as fuel by astronauts.
Scientists know that water ice exists beneath the Moon, but it is unclear whether surface ice frost covers the floors inside these cold craters.
To find out more about this, NASA plans to launch a satellite that will use a “torch” or “flashlight” to find the water. The mission will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this month and will be a small briefcase-sized satellite.
John Baker, mission project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a release: “This launch will launch the satellite on a trajectory that will take about three months to reach its science orbit.”
After the satellite is launched, the mission navigators guide the spacecraft around the moon. It will be slowly pulled back by gravity from the Earth and Sun before settling into a wide, looping orbit.
The orbit will pass 70,000 kilometers from the moon at its farthest point, and at its closest approach, the satellite will graze the moon’s surface within 15 kilometers, according to the space agency.
“This is an exciting time for lunar exploration. The launch of Lunar Flashlight, along with many small satellite missions aboard Artemis I, can lay the groundwork for scientific discovery as well as support future missions to the lunar surface,” said Roger Hunter. Small Spacecraft Technology Program Manager at NASA Ames Research Center.