The tool to measure the amount is called a lunar hydrogen polar mapper, and it will soon launch into space.
Water is an extremely valuable resource in space and when evidence on the moon was discovered, it was only natural to get the wheels turning. A team of ASU scientists is hoping its spacecraft will be able to help plan future human and robotic lunar missions.
For years, scientists have found evidence of water in certain regions around the poles of the moon, but there's still uncertainty as to where exactly it’s located and just how much of it there is.
To hopefully answer such important questions, that's where the lunar hydrogen polar mapper, also known as "LunaH-Map," comes in.
"LunaH-Map has a neutron detector where it can detect the neutrons that are naturally leaking out of the moon's surface and the energies that we detect from the neutron tell us how much hydrogen is there," explained Dr. Craig Hardgrove, the principal investigator of the LunaH-Map.
The LunaH-Map will be able to enter the moon's orbit, eventually flying very low over the lunar terrain – something that previous missions were unable to do.
"So on a small spacecraft like ours, it only has one science instrument and one primary goal. You can get very, very low over the south pole of the moon and make a higher resolution map," Hardgrove said.
The data could certainly be beneficial for future missions to the moon that will maybe involve astronauts one day.
Hardgrove has been working on it since 2014. "If we get this map, we would be able to tell something about how the ice got there, what the early solar system was like when the moon formed, how much water was in the early system?"
Once the Artemis rocket launches into space, the LunaH-Map will be deployed within five and half hours. The following days will be crucial.
"We have about five days of time to make sure we can get in the right position and so when we fly by the moon, we’ll come back and so all that has to happen, and it has to be carefully choreographed," Hardgrove said.
The spacecraft will launch no earlier than April of this year, and the total mission is expected to last around a year.
Until then, the team continues to do command rehearsals to prepare for the launch.
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