SCIENTISTS have developed new imaging technology to look for ice on the moon ahead of NASA’s moon landing.
Sometime in 2024, Nasa hopes to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the Apollo mission in 1972.
Dubbed Artemis, the mission aims to explore the moon and increase our understanding of its strange terrain – including its dark spots.
Dark spots, or “shadows,” are areas on the moon that never receive sunlight.
They include “deep craters and pocks at high latitudes in the Moon’s polar regions with high walls that protect the crater floor from strong solar radiation,” Science Alert experts noted.
Some of these polar craters may even harbor hidden icy water, although it’s not clear how much.
To get a better idea, scientists have developed an AI algorithm called Hyper-Effective noise Removal U-net Software (HORUS).
HORUS is collaborating with Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – a polar mapping spacecraft orbiting the moon.
LRO analyzes the faint light reflected off nearby mountains and crater walls into the shadowed areas.
However, since these low-light optical images are typically very grainy, HORUS is needed to eliminate noise and enhance the image.
And HORUS doesn’t just do geological mapping – it can also help with landing site selection.
In fact, scientists have already used HORUS to map 44 dark shadow regions in the Artemis Exploration Zone.
They then used the denoised images to identify potential hazards and recommend locations for future exploration missions.
“Visible routes into the permanently shadowed regions can now be designed, significantly reducing the risks for Artemis astronauts and robotic researchers,” said geologist David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA.
In addition, the team said in their study that they observed no direct evidence of surface-exposed ice and/or frost.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t ice on the moon — the team suggests it “could be mixed with the regolith or buried at depth.”
The scientists’ research was published in Geophysical Research Letters on August 26, 2022.
https://www.the-sun.com/tech/6107997/new-imaging-tech-search-ice-moon-nasa-astronaut/ New imaging technology used in searching for ice on the moon as Nasa locates locations for astronaut landings