NASA spaceprobe to search for water in space using Russian technology

Water on the Moon can only occur in the shape of ice accumulated on the poles, in the craters devoid of sunshine

Russian-made device mounted on an American space probe will search for water and locations for future bases on the Moon. “Scientists are planning to find ice on the poles of the Moon using Russian equipment LEND to be mounted NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,” said Igor Mitrofanov, head of laboratory of the Institute for Space Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The equipment is under development by the above institute.

The new device is a modified version of the neutron detector HEND which was installed on the American orbiter Odysseus. The HEND has been used for four years now for detection of water on Mars. “Theoretically, water on the Moon can only occur in the shape of ice accumulated on the poles, in the craters devoid of sunshine, in the so-called 'cold traps',” said Mr. Mitrovanov. According to him, the HEND should be combined with telescopic equipment designed to provide high accuracy while detecting neutrons in the lunar craters as the orbiter conducts exploration of those cold traps that are relatively small, a few dozen kilometers in diameter.

A small quantity of neutrons is a sign of the presence of ice. “The orbiter will carry five more American-made devices to be used in conjunction with LEND,” said Roald Sagdeev, professor of the University of Maryland. One of the devices will be used for drawing lunar temperature charts to locate areas with the lowest temperatures. “A comprehensive approach was used while developing equipment so that devices can supplement one another in terms of operational functions,” said Mr. Sagdeev.

Locations with water could be used as sites for building space bases in the long run. “Solar generators could be installed in the locations where the Sun shines all the time, they could produce electric power for turning ice into hydrogen fuel to be used by interplanetary spacecraft,” said Mr. Mitrofanov. The launching of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is slated for October 2005.

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Author`s name Olga Savka