Washington: The US space agency is studying the idea of mining the water from the surface of the moon when humans finally start living in colonies up there in the near future.
For this, two projects called Lunar Flashlight and the Resource Prospector Mission to assess the possibility are set to blast off in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
While Lunar Flashlight probe would measure and map deposits of water ice in craters near the lunar poles, the Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) plans to send a rover onto the lunar surface to get a close look.
The rover would also be equipped with a drill and collect water samples from up to 1 metre deep.
“If you are going to have humans on the moon and you need water for drinking, breathing, rocket fuel, anything you want, it's much, much cheaper to live off the land than it is to bring everything with you,” Barbara Cohen from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was quoted as saying.
Addressing the NASA Exploration Science Forum, he said it is crucial to “understand the inventory of volatiles across the whole moon and their purity, and their accessibility in particular”.
Lunar Flashlight will make about 80 passes around the moon at a low altitude to find water ice that would be accessible to explorers, Space.com reported.