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A map of possible water beneath the surface of the Moon’s South Pole, based on temperature data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. ESA is preparing a surface sampling payload that will prospect for lunar water among other resources. It is due to be flown to the Moon aboard Russia’s Luna-27 lander in 2025.
Researcher Hannah Sargeant of the UK’s Open University has made Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Europe 2020 Innovation list for her work developing an improved method of extracting lunar water in support of the project.
Hannah remarked: “It’s great to see that research into space resources is being recognised and valued in such a public forum… I’m honoured to be a part of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 European cohort, but I would like to emphasize that there are many incredible researchers that I work with that are so deserving of a place on this list. The future of space science and technology is definitely in great hands!”
The overall payload is called Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation, or PROSPECT. A drill called ProSEED will extract samples, expected to contain water ice and other chemicals that can become trapped at the extremely low temperatures expected; typically -150 °C beneath the surface to lower than -200 °C in some areas.
Samples taken by the drill will then be passed to the ProSPA chemical laboratory, being developed by an Open University team. These samples will then be heated to extract these cold-trapped volatiles and enable follow-up analysis.