The US space agency NASA plans to drop a lander near the South Pole on the moon for the first time at the end of 2022, where it will drill for traces of ice. The exact landing site for the mission has now been determined: a connecting ridge near the Shackleton crater. Nasa announced this in a message on the mission.
Drill, analyze, photograph, radio
The specialists finally decided on the landing site after analyzing measurement data over several months, writes NASA. The decisive factor was that data from overflights in the region suggested the possible discovery of ice. A small crater nearby is ideal for further exploration and there is still enough sunlight to supply the lander with energy for its mission, which is scheduled for 10 days. In addition, there is still visual contact with the earth in order to be able to communicate. The private company Intuitive Machines is developing the “Nova-C” lander for this mission.
During the mission, the drill developed by NASA (The Regolith Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain, TRIDENT) is supposed to search for ice in the ground; the research device named Polar Resources Ice-Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) also has a mass spectrometer for this purpose. The drill is supposed to drill almost a meter deep and deposit the drill cores on the surface. There they are examined for traces of water, while the mass spectrometer is supposed to look for traces of gases.
Experimental preparatory mission
A robot named Micro-Nova, also traveling on board the lander, comes like the lander from Intuitive Machines and moves forward in jumps (a “hopper robot”). He is supposed to take photos in a nearby crater and then return to the lander. In addition, a 4G / LTE cellular network from the US subsidiary of Nokia is on board for the connection, with which a radio network on the moon is to be tested; to do this, a small rover is about one and a half kilometers away from the lander.
With this mission, NASA also wants to explore for the first time how mineral resources on the moon can be tracked down and drilling into the moon’s surface can be carried out – an important step towards mining and reusing resources on the moon in later missions, for example for a lunar base or beyond Travel.
With findings from this mission, NASA also hopes to better prepare for the follow-up mission, in which a rover is to land at the south pole of the moon at the end of 2023. This rover, called VIPER, is also supposed to search for frozen water that could possibly be twisted for the production of rocket fuel. There had also been criticism of the planned landing site on the edge of the Nobile crater because it was not certain that ice would be encountered there at all. Nasa chose Nobile because it is one of the coldest places.