NASA has revealed that its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has discovered presence of greater amounts of hydrogen on Moon’s pole-facing slopes as compared to other areas.
The latest discovery is exciting because presence of hydrogen-bearing molecules opens up the possibility of mining if they are sufficiently abundant thereby reducing the expense of bringing water from Earth. Further, scientists also say that Lunar water could be used for drinking or its components, hydrogen and oxygen, could be used to manufacture important products on the surface that future visitors to the moon will need, like rocket fuel and breathable air.
Recent observations by LRO spacecraft indicated that these deposits might be slightly more abundant on crater slopes in the southern hemisphere that face the lunar South Pole.
Timothy McClanahan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, said that there’s an average of about 23 parts-per-million-by-weight (ppmw) more hydrogen on Pole-Facing Slopes (PFS) than on Equator-Facing Slopes (EFS).
Further, the team observed greater hydrogen abundance on PFS in the topography of the moon’s southern hemisphere, beginning at between 50 and 60 degrees south latitude. Slopes closer to the South Pole show a larger hydrogen concentration difference. Also, hydrogen was detected in greater concentrations on the larger PFS, about 45 ppmw near the poles.
“Here in the northern hemisphere, if you go outside on a sunny day after a snowfall, you’ll notice that there’s more snow on north-facing slopes because they lose water at slower rates than the more sunlit south-facing slopes” said McClanahan. “We think a similar phenomenon is happening with the volatiles on the moon – PFS don’t get as much sunlight as EFS, so this easily vaporized material stays longer and possibly accumulates to a greater extent on PFS.”
This was the first time a widespread geochemical difference in hydrogen abundance between PFS and EFS on the moon has been detected. It was equal to a one-percent difference in the neutron signal detected by LRO’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) instrument.
In addition to seeing if the same pattern exists in the moon’s northern hemisphere, the team wants to see if the hydrogen abundance changes with the transition from day to night. If so, it would substantiate existing evidence of a very active production and cycling of hydrogen on the lunar surface, according to McClanahan.