Americans will drill a well on the moon to extract water ice

NASA Langley Research Center / YouTube


American space agency singled out Intuitive Machines money for delivery to the south pole of the Boer moon. With its help, scientists will try to extract water ice and assess its availability. The VIPER device, which will fly to the moon later than this mission, is equipped with a similar installation.

The poles of the moon are rich in water ice: according to the latest estimates, its reserves are estimated at billions of tons. To facilitate supplies for future lunar missions, American astronauts expect to use local resources, including water. It is useful not only for drinking and technical needs: using electricity, water can be decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen, a popular fuel pair. Meanwhile, all data on the lunar ice were obtained during observations from the Earth and orbit: it is not clear exactly how it lies in the ground and whether it is easy to use it for industrial production of water.

To fix this, NASA instructed Intuitive Machines to deliver a drill to the moon and test ice mining by the end of 2022. For this purpose, the agency has allocated 47 million dollars to the company under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The lander will deliver the experimental facility to the South Pole PRIME-1, which will also be installed in the probe to find water VIPER… The main part of the PRIME-1 is a drill, which can deliver samples to the surface from every depth and dig up to a meter of soil.

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After that, the samples will be analyzed by a mass spectrometer, which will determine the amount of water and other chemical components. Among other things, the dynamics of ice evaporation from regolith is important for scientists. If it turns out to be too high, then with large-scale production of lunar water, special designs will be required to prevent its loss. In addition, trial operation of the PRIME-1 on a stationary platform will help finalize a similar system on VIPER, which is to take off immediately after the Intuitive Machines mission.

From the lunar soil also can mine metals and oxygen or do bricks… However, before that, it still needs to be obtained, and therefore for training NASA promised redeem from private companies the soil that they will extract by 2024.

Vasily Zaitsev

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