For lunar colonies, nothing will be more important than water — and not just for drinking. It’ll supply oxygen for breathing, and oxygen and hydrogen to power their rockets. But there’s no liquid water anywhere on the Moon. There is a large amount of frozen water, but most of it is buried in craters at the poles.
NASA’s getting ready to test out some electronic “noses” designed to sniff out that water. They’ll be carried to the Moon on a pair of landers next year.
Last year, the Space Agency selected three companies to land scientific instruments on the Moon, although one of them quickly dropped out. And early this year, it picked 16 experiments for the probes to carry.
Most of the experiments are designed to help plan for astronauts to land on the Moon in a few years. Some will measure the level of radiation at the lunar surface, for example. Others will study how the landers change the surface. And one will test new solar cells that will power future missions.
Several of the instruments will look for evidence of water and other compounds that astronauts might be able to use, such as methane and carbon dioxide. The instruments will “sniff” out tiny amounts of these materials wafting just above the surface. The experiments will pioneer ways for explorers to “live off the land” — on the surface of the Moon.
Look for the Moon high in the sky at nightfall. Regulus, the star that marks the heart of the lion, stands just below it.
Script by Damond Benningfield