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The sun was slightly above the horizon, and the towering mountains cast dark shadows. These craters provide a refuge of infinite darkness, some of which are deep enough to have been cut off from sunlight for billions of years.

Temperatures in these areas plummeted The lowest temperature can reach -248°C Because the Moon lacks an atmosphere to heat the surface.

No one has set foot in this completely unexplored world.

he south pole of the moonAccording to NASA, it is full of “mystery, science and intrigue”.

Not surprisingly, a space race aimed at reaching regions far from the Apollo moon landing sites, which were clustered around the satellite’s equator.

Finding Water at the Moon’s South Pole

India also plans to conduct joint missions in 2026 lunar polar exploration (Lupex) in cooperation with Japan to explore the “Dark Side of the Moon” region.

Why is the lunar south pole an attractive science destination? Water is one of the keys, experts say.

Images sent back by Chandrayaan-3 show craters on the surface of the moon

This image from Chandrayaan-3 shows craters on the lunar surface. Photo: Indian Space Research Organization.

Data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Moon for 14 years, shows that: some large craters contain ice Cut off from the light that might one day power humans.

Since there is a vacuum on the moon, there is not enough gravity to maintain an atmosphere, and water exists only in solid or gaseous form. In 2008, India’s Chandrayaan-1 moon mission found the first evidence of water on a satellite.

“These ices haven’t been proven to be accessible or mineable. In other words, are there water reserves that can be economically mined?” said Clive Neal, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Notre Dame.

For scientists, the prospect of finding water on the moon is promising in many ways.

Frozen water uncontaminated by solar radiation may have pooled over millions of years in cold polar regions, causing ice to form on or near the surface.

This will provide scientists with a unique sample to analyze and understand the history of water in the solar system.

“We can solve problems such as When and where did water come from and what is its effect on the evolution of life Simeon Barber, a planetary scientist at the Open University in the UK, who is also working with the European Space Agency, explained.

million per kilogram

Prof Barber said there were other, more “pragmatic” reasons for getting water on or below the lunar surface.

On August 11, a rocket carrying the Luna-25 lunar lander blasted off from a Russian launch pad.

On August 11, a rocket carrying the Luna-25 lunar lander blasted off from a Russian launch pad.Photo: Roscosmos

Many countries are planning new manned missions to the moon, and astronauts will need water for consumption and hygiene.

Transporting materials from Earth to the Moon requires overcoming Earth’s gravity. Carrying more weight requires more fuel and a more powerful rocket to successfully land on the moon.The new commercial aerospace company charges approx. It costs $1 million to carry a kilogram of payload to the moon.

“It’s worth $1 million per liter of drinking water! Space entrepreneurs certainly see moon ice as an opportunity to provide local water to astronauts,” says Professor Barber.

That’s not all. Water molecules can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are used as rocket propellants.

But first, scientists need to know how much ice is on the Moon, in what form, and whether it can be efficiently extracted and purified for drinking water.

On the other hand, some regions of the Moon’s South Pole receive sunlight for extended periods of time, lasting as long as 200 Earth days.

Solar energy is another potential resource “It has the poles” to build lunar bases and power plants, said NASA project scientist Noah Petro.

The Space Race to the Moon’s South Pole

The lunar south pole also sits on the edge of a large impact crater.and 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 8 kilometers deep, this gigantic hole is one of the oldest in the solar system. “By landing at the pole, you can start to understand the size of this large crater,” Petro said.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA spacecraft

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is a NASA spacecraft that has been orbiting the Moon for 14 years. Photo: Getty Images.

Navigating the poles with rovers, spacesuits and research tools in a different light and thermal environment than previously explored equatorial locations is also expected to yield valuable information.

However, scientists are reluctant to call this a race to the Antarctic.

“These missions have been decades in the making and have been delayed many times. This run is not critical to our understanding of the Moon. We ended up losing interest in the last real space race. We spent five years on the moon three years later, and we haven’t returned to the lunar surface for five years. said Vishnu Reddy, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona.

The Indian and Russian missions also share some common goals, the scientists noted.

Both set the goal of landing a similarly sized spacecraft in the Antarctic region, which is further south of the equator than any previous lunar mission.

After a failed landing attempt in 2019, India will attempt to demonstrate its ability to deliver a spacecraft to the lunar poles.

It also aims to Examining the Exosphere of a Satellite – an extremely thin atmosphere – and analyze polar regolith, a deposit of loose grains and dust deposited on bedrock over billions of years.

One of the goals of the Luna-25 mission is to analyze the composition of the polar regolith, as well as the plasma and dust elements of the lunar polar exosphere.

astronaut on the moon

NASA’s Artemis program aims to return astronauts to the moon more than half a century after the last Apollo mission.Photo: NASA

Professor Neil predicts that the Indian orbiter’s landing site will undoubtedly be “a bit far from the actual pole”, although the data it will provide “will be fascinating”.

Russia and China plan to build lunar space station Establish research facilities on the surface of the moonin orbit or both.

Russia is planning more missions to the moon, while NASA is sending materials via commercial landers.

Japan is preparing to launch a smart lander (SLIM mission) on Aug. 26, a small-scale mission designed to test the precision moon landing technology of a small lunar rover.

Of course, NASA’s Artemis program aims to return astronauts to the Moon on a series of spaceflights more than half a century after the last Apollo mission.

For Petro, the moon “is like a giant puzzle. We have some pieces based on lunar meteorite samples and data. We have images of the moon, but it’s not complete.”

“The moon continues to surprise us,” he said.

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