Ice @ N. lunar pole

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NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon's North Pole

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 1.3 million pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

"The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon," said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. "The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought."

During the past year, the Mini-SAR mapped the moon's permanently-shadowed polar craters that aren't visible from Earth. The radar uses the polarization properties of reflected radio waves to characterize surface properties. Results from the mapping showed deposits having radar characteristics similar to ice.

"After analyzing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit," said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

The Mini-SAR's findings are being published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The results are consistent with recent findings of other NASA instruments and add to the growing scientific understanding of the multiple forms of water found on the moon. The agency's Moon Mineralogy Mapper discovered water molecules in the moon's polar regions, while water vapor was detected by NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS.


Thanks docm.

This is certainly compelling & I really hope that a map will be released showing where the suspected ice is.

This together with the North Lunar Polar, extremely cold Hermite Crater floor of approx -262 C / 11 K, along with the LCROSS Cebeaus Crater observations near the lunar South Pole.

I guess that the ice must now be fairly certain, hence this release.

Can anyone else see a Lunar polar sample return mission coming up???????? :mrgreen:

Andrew Brown.


Well this certainly makes a big difference in plans. The #1 reason why I've pushed for Mars over the Moon is (until now) there hasn't been any confirmed sources of hydrogen on the Moon. And without hydrogen, nothing happens. But 600 Million Tons of water is plenty. That's water for the radiation shields, agriculture, fuel. There's likely more water underground. But that takes time and equipment. If this ice is on the surface, it is (relatively) easily accessed to get the big base started.

This alleviates so much mass from the support of a permanent base. The base will be increasingly self sufficient, enabling the cargo shipments to focus on the necessary high tech equipment, rather than basic comodities.

So now we have a technology development path.

#1: Get the VASIMR prototype installed on the ISS ASAP.
#2: Get the VASIMR lunar tug in operation.
#3: Start shipping double the cargo to the Moon.
#4: Build a mass driver and start doing really interesting things.

A permanent lunar base is so different from a space station. We can simply start diging and create all the habitable volume we want. There's gravity, real mass for radiation protection. And the #1 benefit of a surface base - all the mass you send stays there. Every cargo lander becomes a source of high grade metals for recycling. Need a foundry? A factory? Dig out a big cave and set one up. Want to test the big VASIMR for the Mars ship? Test it in the giant free vaccum chamber called the surface.

And then there's the distance. 9 months to Mars, 3 days to the Moon, and all the arguments for why we can't go just melt away. And when a permanent base is established, requiring routine travel, that's when launch costs will really come down.

600 Million tons of water, let's go get it and put it to work.


Well before we get all excited, there is still plenty of work. This is a good data point, but it’s not the whole picture.

What this information can be used for is to calm the Congress. They want a goal, and are not smart enough to come up with one themselves? How about making a pair of robotic missions?

The best solution will be two lunar rovers ala Mars Science Laboratory with a tractor along with that sample return mission. We need a robot with tracks and a tractor to go to one of these craters and see:

a) How hard is traversing these craters? What does the bottom of one of these shadowed craters looks like?

b) How hard is getting to the ice and in what form the ice is in?

c) How hard is getting some of that ice with a tractor and taking it back to a sample return vehicle.

To speed things up the robot vehicles don’t need to be very smart. Due to the distance to the Moon they can easily be tele-operated. NASA get your scientific and robotics hat on pronto!


Yes, I agree 100%. The coolest (and most politically usefull) thing right now would be to have video from the tractor looking out over a ton of ice. If it's there, on the surface... Anything that changes the public perception of the Moon from a dry dead desert to an oasis of water, it's huge.
If that ice is there, NASA's #1 job needs to be to get down in those craters, look around and see what they can do with it.


W...O....W!!! 600 Million Tons. This is fantastic good news.


nimbus":3if2rfpq said:
Isn't that more than the antarctic ice sheet?

Not even close. One cubic km. of water = 1 Million Metric tons. So if these numbers are correct, the moon has around 600 cubic kms of water. The Antartic ice sheet contains 25.4 MILLION cubic kms. of water. So the Antarctic ice sheet has around 40,000 times as much water.


Hmm.. Water and ice are close enough at .98 or so and .92 g/cm3.
g/cm3 respectively equate to 10^-12 and 10^-15 megatons/km3.
So that's 1 Mt (million tons) per 1000 km3. Unless my math circuits have gone nuts.

The antarctic ice sheet reportedly contains ~30 million km3 of ice, so by the above math its water content weighs 30,000 Mt. ...
600 Mt of north lunar ice would be 600,000 km3 or 50 times less than our 30,000,000 km3 antarctic ice sheet.

That'd be roughly 10 times Greenland's ice volume. Or ten thousand times the Swiss glaciers' content.

I checked the equation of g/cm3 to Mt/km3 on this online calculatorand it says the same thing I found: 1g/cm3 = 1000Mt/km3

ugh.. I'm totally out of it. 1000 Mt/km3, not 1Mt/1000km3 as on my little napkin math.

1000 Mt/km3 means 600 Mt = .6 km3 or 50,000,000 less than Antarctica's 30,000,000 km3 which really weighs 30 billion tons.
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