A team of researchers created a map of the Moon that shows the potential locations of ice water deposits. The researcher made the map in order to guide companies that are interested in carrying out mining operations on the Moon.

The map was created by planetary scientists from the University of Central Florida for a study that was published in Science Direct. Formally known as the Ice Favorability Index, it features a geological model of the Moon and potential locations of water ice deposits on its surface.

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the Moon at roughly five miles per second, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania. Onboard are: NASA astronauts Joe Acaba,
The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the Moon at roughly five miles per second, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania. Onboard are: NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Randy Bresnik; Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryanzansky; and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli. NASA/Joel Kowsky

Mapping The Moon For Mining

The researchers were able to create the index using computer models and data collected by satellites and previous lunar missions to the Moon. Through the data they collected, the researchers were able to identify craters made by asteroid impacts, which might have brought water ice to the Moon. Aside from deposits on the surface, the index also proposes the existence of water ice reservoirs underneath the Moon's poles.

"Despite being our closest neighbor, we still don't know a lot about water on the moon, especially how much there is beneath the surface," Kevin Cannon, the lead researcher for the project, said in a statement. "It's important for us to consider the geologic processes that have gone on to better understand where we may find ice deposits and how to best get to them with the least amount of risk."

Water As A Valuable Lunar Resource

According to the researchers, water is one of the most important resources that can be mined on the Moon. Since liquid water can be processed in order to extract certain elements such as hydrogen and oxygen, which could then be used to create fuel.

Having a natural source of fuel on the Moon would be a huge step in space exploration. It would allow missions to refuel in preparation for extended trips into space. Also, finding a source of water on the Moon would play a vital role in the establishment of a lunar outpost.

tycho crater moon
Tycho crater in moon NASA

Future Of Lunar Mining

As noted by the researchers, several companies have already expressed their interest in mining resources from the Moon. Through the Ice Favorability Index, researchers are hoping to ease the start of the lunar mining industry.

"The idea of mining the moon and asteroids isn't science fiction anymore," the study's co-author Dan Britt stated. "There are teams around the world looking to find ways to make this happen and our work will help get us closer to making the idea a reality."