Humans have already found water in many places on the Moon. Now, we want to explore the frozen water hidden deep inside craters at the Moon’s poles. The water locked inside the Moon’s polar craters lies undisturbed, at a temperature of -380 F. The water in these sun-deprived craters might have accumulated over billions of years—which could tell us about early history of the inner solar system.
The Moon is the ideal test subject because unlike the Earth, the Moon is unaffected by atmospheric interactions. The Moon’s scientific record is relatively pristine.
But that could change if increased earthling traffic contaminates the ice that we seek to study. Over half a dozen space teams are set to touch down on the Moon by 2024, and they plan to study the precious ice. They might also try to mine it to make fuel for rockets at future lunar bases. This could contaminate the Moon’s ice.
Airborne particles, like rocket exhaust, can spread all over the Moon, far away from where astronauts are working and remain there for years. In fact, this has already occurred on past lunar missions. But earlier astronauts weren’t too concerned about contamination because they believed that the moon was “bone dry.”
Now that we know better some scientists plan to collect ice and fly it back to Earth, where scientists can determine how precious the scientific record of the ice really is and whether we should hold off on mining. However, any contamination would be restricted to the surface and easily recognized. Enabling science and exploration (including ice mining) to occur in synergy would enhance our knowledge of the Moon.