This is a key discovery for a possible presence with permanent space bases. It's carbon dioxide frozen on the Moon, and now we know where it might be
In all the movies we've seen or novels we've read, the Moon looks empty and desolate. And that's how Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on it after Neil Armstrong, also described it. In reality the surface of our satellite is full of scientifically relevant elements.
Only in recent years frozen water has been found in the so-called "cold traps". And then also oxygen in the soil. The latest discovery is that there is also frozen carbon dioxide on the Moon.
Carbon dioxide on the Moon
The discovery is very recent, and is from the Planetary Science Institute. It is found in icy form, in what scientists call "cold traps" at the lunar South Pole, the same ones where water has been found.
Those are regions that have never been exposed to the Sun's rays, and thus have preserved extremely cold craters, where carbon dioxide has remained in solid form.
Why the discovery is important
"After water, carbon dioxide is the most important element to find on the Moon," explains Norbert Schorghofer, of the Planetary Science Institute.
In fact, carbon dioxide can be used to make rocket fuel, as well as biomaterials and steel. And it is certainly less expensive to find it on the Moon than to bring it to the satellite from Earth, also in anticipation of a future fixed human presence on the Moon.
In fact, both NASA and the Chinese Department of Space Exploration expect a return to the Moon by the end of this decade. NASA even wants to return by 2025. China, on the other hand, has very clear ideas about what to do once it reaches the Moon.
The southern regions of the Moon could be potential locations for permanent bases for space agencies around the world. And the presence of water and carbon dioxide would be critical. Scientists have already identified some specific sites to look for water on the Moon.
The discovery of the existence of "cold traps," and thus most likely carbon dioxide, comes after 11 years of measuring the Moon's surface and its temperature. Also because carbon dioxide has already been detected in 2009 by the impact of a NASA satellite on the surface of the satellite.