A research team from the University of California says there may be much more ice water on the surface of the moon than previously thought – and that this could be a big deal for future missions to the Moon.
By comparing sun-shaded shadow areas on the surface of Mercury with similar shadow craters on the Moon, they concluded that ice deposits, sometimes several meters thick, could survive in shadow craters near the south pole of the Moon.  Protected from the sun and able to withstand temperatures as low as -233 degrees Celsius at night, the interior of these craters could contain plenty of ice, according to the researchers. Their research was published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience .
The team analyzed data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, a robotic orbiter that had spent four years orbiting Mercury, and found that this was possible due to ice in permanently shaded craters.
Previous evidence from the NASA LRO probe that crashed onto the lunar surface in 2009 suggests that some of its craters were partially water and ice vapor.
A study released earlier this month by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center also found that these South Pole craters can absorb and trap water ̵
Since the Moon Lacking an atmosphere, the contents of the craters are exposed to incident sunbursts of meteorite and ionized gases known to the sun. The erosion then dumps the water particles outside the crater, where it can be detected with instruments aboard spacecraft such as NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
said William M. Farrell, research director, said in a statement. "But there are solar wind particles and meteoroids that hit the surface, and they can trigger reactions that typically occur at warmer surface temperatures. This is something that was not highlighted.
It is unlikely that we will know exactly how much water is trapped in these shady lunar craters until we send astronauts to see for ourselves, but at best, about 12,000 shaded craters on the moon could potentially produce millions of tons of ice – which could make plans for a permanent base on our nearest heavenly neighbor much easier.  READ MORE: study suggests much more water on the Moon than imagined [ Phys.org ]
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