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Carbon Dioxide Cold Traps on the Moon

Super Moon 9th March 06.00am 2020 Image Kenny Armet

The discovery of carbon dioxide cold traps on the moon may have a major influence in shaping future lunar missions and could impact the feasibility of a sustained robot or human presence on it.

Such cold temperatures are reached in the shadowed areas of the moon that scientists suggest that carbon dioxide molecules could freeze and remain in solid form.

If this is indeed the case then  it could potentially be used in a variety of ways. Future space explorers could use the resource in the production of steel as well as rocket fuel and biomaterials, which would both be essential for sustained robot or human presence on the moon.

A view of the lunar south pole, where newly confirmed carbon dioxide cold traps are located, according to new research in Geophysical Research Letters. Future missions on the Moon may target this region to find out more about the resources that may exist there. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The new research, was published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Norbert Schörghofer, a planetary scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, explained that the existence of carbon dioxide cold traps does not guarantee the existence of solid carbon dioxide on the moon.

A map of carbon dioxide cold traps on the Moon, with likely cold traps marked in purple hues. In these regions, temperatures dip below even the coldest temperatures measured on Pluto. Credit: AGU/Geophysical Research Letters

He said:

“I think when I started this, the question was, ‘Can we confidently say there are carbon dioxide cold traps on the moon or not?

“My surprise was that they’re actually, definitely there. It could have been that we can’t establish their existence, [they might have been] one pixel on a map… so I think the surprise was that we really found contiguous regions which are cold enough, beyond doubt.”

Image credit Bell

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