Where will humans live and work on the Moon?

(Left) The far side of the Moon. (Right) An image of the south pole of the Moon.  Blue dots indicate where a NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft detected water ice. (Credit: NASA)

The Moon is the closest neighbor to Earth, about 238,855 miles (394,500 km) away. But it’s not very comfortable for humans. The Moon’s size is only about a quarter of Earth’s size, and its gravity is much weaker, only 16% of Earth’s. That’s why it can’t hold onto an atmosphere, making it an “airless” place. Because of this, the temperature on the Moon’s surface goes from a freezing -400 degrees Fahrenheit (-250 degrees Celsius) to a scorching 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) during its long days (which are a bit over 28 Earth days long). Due to billions of years of impacts, the surface is covered with a gray powder called lunar regolith.

Scientists used to think the Moon was dry, with no water. But in the last 25 years, spacecraft have discovered that regions inside craters near the poles have permanent shadows where ice exists.

Artemis III will set up a base on the South Pole of the Moon. The Sun is low in the sky there, and long shadows cover the area. This makes it perfect for collecting ice, which can be turned into water for drinking and fuel for rockets. The rims of craters on the South Pole are mostly lit by the Sun, so astronauts can avoid extreme cold during the lunar night, and solar panels can gather energy.

Learn more about the properties of the Moon: Overview | Inside & Out – Moon: NASA Science

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Learn more about shadows on the South Pole of the Moon:

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