Probably no ice on the Moon

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Despite the thrill of exploring other worlds, for serious human colonization in space a space station based around a Stanford Torus design might be the easiest and most cost-effective way to get started.

See here:
A permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole has long been suspected of harboring water ice deposits that might be used by future lunar colonists. No such luck, a new study suggests.

Scientists have debated whether or not these cold craters, constantly shielded from sunlight, could contain water ice, which could be melted for drinking water and potentially converted into rocket fuel.

NASA's Lunar Prospector mission (1998–1999) recorded an enhanced signal of hydrogen in these features. Some scientists contend that this hydrogen is in the form of water ice.

The Pentagon's Clementine lunar orbiter (1994) gave positive indications of water ice in one of the cold depressions called Shackleton crater, some scientists think. Others have disputed this interpretation because Earth-based radar of that area reflected a signal more indicative of rock than ice.

New images of Shackleton taken by the Japanese lunar explorer satellite KAGUYA (SELENE) support the view that there likely aren't any exposed water ice deposits in the crater.
That's always been the problem with the Moon: it's the only body people can actually reach within a few days' journey, but there isn't as much to work with as on places like Mars and probably Ceres (which most likely has huge amounts of ice water). This is what gives rise to the endless debate on whether location is important, in which case the Moon should be the place to colonize, or whether a self-sustainable environment is, in which case Mars may be the better option.

There's also the argument that since you have the huge gravity wells to escape from in both cases, and since the Moon doesn't really have all that much and Mars is too far away, that it would be both easier and much cheaper to just build colonies in Earth orbit. That's what we're already doing today to a certain extent so it's certainly much easier.


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