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The Moon’s surface is littered with lacerations. Created by boulders that were sent rolling by an asteroid or seismic event, these grooves helped scientists during the Apollo era to determine whether the lunar soil and gravel could support a massive lander or rover. But in the 47 years since humans last walked on the Moon, this technique of “boulder tracking” has lain dormant. Now a team of planetary scientists is reviving it, but this time, their search focuses on the boulders that plummet into craters that have never been warmed by the Sun’s rays. The findings could influence missions to these largely unexplored areas, said Hannah Sargeant, a graduate student at The Open University in the UK, who presented the team’s work at the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston (see pdf).

The gloomy depths of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions (PSRs)—the insides of craters that never point toward the Sun—rarely heat to above a few tens of degrees Kelvin. Such dark and inhospitable environments may be unobvious candidates for future missions to the Moon. But their bone-chilling landscapes make them perfect habitats for trapping and storing life-giving water, and satellite data confirmed last year that water ice exists in PSRs.

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Category: Science