A “cold trap” of carbon dioxide on its surface has been confirmed for the first time

After decades of uncertainty, a team of US researchers has confirmed the existence of a “cold trap” on the lunar surface, which is likely to contain solid carbon dioxide. The discovery could have important implications for future lunar missions.

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[EN VIDÉO] Chang’e 5 landing on the moon
The Chinese space agency invites us to relive the landing of Chang’e 5 on the visible face of the Moon on December 1, 2020. The lander landed in the storm’s ocean for an express sample collection mission. This is the first time in more than 40 years that lunar rocks have been brought back to Earth.

Earth’s natural satellite, Moon The closest to us is the extraterrestrial body, which makes its discovery relatively easy, and prompts humans to multiply visits there, with the distant goal of establishing a viable and sustainable colony there. These future missions will likely require exploiting resources on the spot, prompting scientists to conduct preliminary surveys.

Cold Carbon Dioxide Trap at Lunar South Pole?

Although planetologists have already been delving into the existence of these cold traps for several decades, this new study, by a team of American researchers, is the first to establish and map their presence.

It is at the level of the South Pole that scientists carried out their discovery: due to the weak inclination of the axis of rotation Moon (about 1.5 °), some craters in the polar regions are constantly shaded, protecting these regions from the Sun at temperatures below 60 °C. Kelvin (below -200 °C!), even cooler than the surface Pluto, In these areas, carbon di oxide Even during lunar summer maximum temperatures, ice conditions can exist forever.

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To locate the coldest regions on the Moon’s surface, scientists relied on 11 years of surface temperature measurements made by lunar radiometers. guesser, an instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Their results indicate a concentration of cold traps around the lunar south pole, and the total area of ​​these traps would be about 204 square kilometers. However, although the presence of carbon dioxide is strongly suspected, future lunar missions will be necessary to accurately analyze the structure beneath these craters.

Implications for future lunar missions?

If frozen carbon dioxide is indeed present on the surface of the Moon, it could be used to produce fuel or materials for long lunar missions. Period : Resources may be used in the production of future lunar explorerssteel or fuel from rocket or biomaterials, necessary for the continued presence on the surface of the Moon (whether robotic or human). This exploitable potential has already caused envy among many American and European companies, and will likely have an impact on international policy on the management of space resources.

From a more scientific perspective, lunar carbon could also help researchers answer long unanswered questions, such as the origin of water and other volatiles in Earth. earth-moon system,

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