The Lunar IceCube is NASA’s water-detecting CubeSat, which will soon take off on its lunar orbit. Despite the satellite being the size of a shoebox, the data it will collate will have an immense impact on lunar science.

This mini-satellite will allow NASA scientists to use its data to detect where lunar water is, what its origins are and how we can use it.

The satellite is integrated into the Space Launch System rocket and will head to the Moon as part of the Artemis I mission, which is scheduled to launch on August 29, 2022.

UCF Assistant Professor Kerri Donaldson Hanna shows parts of a spectrometer at her lab in the UCF Physical Sciences Building on Monday, May 16, 202…

NASA’s shoebox-sized satellite for lunar ice

As the Lunar IceCube orbits the Moon it will use a spectrometer to investigate lunar ice. Scientists are especially interested in how the Moon’s surface absorbs and releases water.

NASA states: “Scientists are interested in how the water is absorbed and released from regolith.” This would allow NASA to understand the different elements on the Moon and how they react. With the help of Lunar IceCube, NASA can also view any changes that may occur over the seasons.

The Lunar IceCube will also look at the atmosphere, aka the exosphere, surrounding the Moon. Due to it being very thin, water and other substances on the Moon have different dynamics. This may affect how humans would use these resources on the Moon. Therefore, this 31lb (14kg) cube will increase our knowledge of what living and working on the Moon would look like.

The Artemis 1 mission marks the first launch of the SLS rocket integrated with satellites. However, previous expeditions by NASA have also investigated the presence of water ice on the Moon. Now water ice has been found, they will look further into how it changes depending on its environment.

How NASA’s new mission may help humans

Astronauts are interested in finding water on the lunar surface as it could be helpful for future expeditions. They could even use the elements for rocket fuel as water ice can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen.

A NASA blog post revealed the Lunar IceCube mission was picked as a public-private collaboration to develop exploration systems. This is one of the first tiny satellites to make observations of water ice in diverse lunar regions. However, it is likely to trigger many more missions.

The Lunar IceCube might be the size of an 8in tissue box but it will pave the way for more crewed missions to the Moon in the future.

Orange County Register Archive
Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Related Topics