Discovery on the moon could make colonisation a lot easier

21 Aug 2018

Image: HelenField/Shutterstock

The discovery of ice on the surface of the moon could help future colonists establish a plentiful source of water to thrive.

With attempts to colonise Mars appearing even more difficult than we originally believed, space agencies and private companies are turning their attention once again towards the moon after nearly half a century.

Now, astronomers observing the moon’s southern and northern poles have announced the discovery of patches of ice.

According to The Guardian, the ice was located after searching infrared measurements taken by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which was launched into a lunar orbit 10 years ago.

Permanently sheltered from the intense solar rays that beat down upon the moon, the frozen water has remained – and will continue to remain – intact.

The patches found at the southern pole were packed around a cluster of craters; in the north, similar patches were a lot more isolated.

Determining the ideal formation conditions for ice on the moon, the researchers said it occurs in places where surface temperature never exceeds -163 degrees Celsius. However, this appears not to be the only requirement as just 3.5pc of the lunar surface where this condition is met actually had ice.

Big plans for the moon

All of this spells good news for future moon colonists as it could provide a readily available source of water, an obvious necessity for anyone living in the otherwise barren and harsh lunar landscape.

One such colonisation plan was announced last year as part of a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Chinese national space agency to have up to 10 colonists living there by 2030.

If all goes according to plan, by 2050 there could be approximately 1,000 people living on the moon as the first families start to develop.

From there, it is envisioned that the moon could be a used as a fuelling station between Earth and other planets in the solar system and beyond.

Findings on the latest discovery have been published to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic