The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Russia to build a drill that will be used on the moon.
The ESA will build the drill for Russia’s unmanned trip to the moon in 2021, according to BBC. The drill, named Prospect (Package for Resource Observation, in-Situ analysis and Prospecting for Exploration Commercial exploitation and Transportation), will drill into the lunar surface and try to find signs of water, as well as potential resources that may prove useful in future space exploration.
Scientists believe the south polar region of the moon may be holding water in a massive impact crater known as the Aitken Basin. NASA says the basin is the largest one on the lunar surface and at its deepest point is nearly twice as high as Mt. Everest. Everest is about five and a half miles high, while the basin is more than nine miles high from its deepest point.
“Recent orbital missions and also impactors have given us fresh insight into the potential for water,” Richard Fisackerly, lead engineer of the Prospect project, told BBC in a Thursday report. “Which could be used to support future explorers with water and oxygen for life support, for energy management and also potentially for propellant.”
The scientists are hoping the basin has potential as an oasis for future space travel.
The drill borrows from another recent space mission when the ESA landed on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Rosetta mission took 10 years and travelled 4 billion miles to make the historic landing.
Officials expect the lunar surface, which fluctuates between 212 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and -279 degrees Fahrenheit at night, to have frost and hope to find water under the surface.
“We expect possibly to find some surface water-ice, like a frost,” Simeon Barber of Open University told BBC. “But there are mechanisms that suggest this is more concentrated the deeper you go.”
The scientists think that as the Sun warms the moon’s surface, water may arise on its own.
BBC also reports that the ESA planned to launch its own lunar mission in 2018, but the plan was ultimately shot down because of the projected $553 million dollar cost.
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