The administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, has an idea for the renewed and "sustainable" human exploration of the moon, and cites the existence of water on the lunar surface as a key to the chances of success.
"We know that there are hundreds of billions of tons of ice on the surface of the moon," Bridenstine said in a Reuters TV interview in Washington one day after NASA analyzed data collected from the lunar orbit using an Indian spacecraft.
The findings mark the first time scientists confirmed the presence of water on the surface of the moon through direct observation, in hundreds of pieces of ice deposited in the darkest and coldest parts of the polar regions.
The discovery has tempting consequences for the efforts of people returning to the moon for the first time in half a century. The presence of water offers a potentially valuable source, not only for drinking, but also to produce more rocket fuel and oxygen for breathing.
Bridenstine, a former US Navy fighter and Oklahoma lawmaker, who was named head of NASA by US President Donald Trump in April, talked about "hundreds of billions of tons of ice" water that is now known to be available on the lunar surface.
But there is a lot to know. NASA & # 39; s scientist Sarah Noble told Reuters by telephone that the amount of ice that is actually present on the moon is still unknown and how easy it would be to extract it in sufficient quantities to be of practical use.
"We have many models that give us different answers, we can not know how much water there is," said Noble, adding that the exhaustive exploration of the lunar surface using robotic systems will enable us to get the answer to this question. .
Although it was believed for a long time that the moon was completely dry or almost devoid of moisture, in recent years scientists have found more and more indications of the existence of water in the natural satellite of the earth. The most frozen water just attached to the moon is concentrated in the shadows of the craters at both poles, where the temperature never exceeds -250 degrees Fahrenheit (about 160 degrees Celsius below zero).
Bridenstine spoke with Reuters about making the next generation of moon surveys as a "sustainable business", using rockets and other spacecraft that could be used time and time again.
"So we want the tugboats to go from the earth's orbit to the lunar orbit to be reusable, we want a space station around the moon to stay there for a long time and we want landing modules that go back and forth between the space station around the moon and the surface of the moon, "he explained.
The previous human reconnaissance program of the NASA moon ended with the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
Trump announced in December the goal of sending American astronauts to the moon, with the ultimate goal of establishing "a basis for a final mission to Mars". The $ 19,900 million government budget proposal for NASA in the fiscal year beginning October 1 includes $ 10,500 million for human space exploration.