Watch: Virtual tour of Moon's South Pole in two Earth months

It’s cold, dark, and might hold the key to life on new worlds.

David Ladd, NASA Goddard/USRA

It’s cold on the Moon’s South Pole.

There are some regions that the Sun never touches — namely the bottoms of cavernous craters.

But it’s what’s inside those frigid craters that matters: they might be storehouses for frozen water.

NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to land humans on the moon by 2024, will search the south pole for water and other resources.

In the meantime, researchers are analyzing the best places for future missions to set up shop.

David Ladd, NASA Goddard/USRA

A new NASA study, published September 1 in the journal Planetary and Space Science, details four ideal landing spots on the South Pole to hunt for resources.

Here’s a map of where the sites stand on the South Pole, with noted sun visibility all day.

Michael Barker, NASA Goddard

The study was released alongside a stunning visualization of the Moon’s South Pole, comprised of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.


Here’s what roughly 60 Earth days looks like on the Moon’s South Pole:

The sun never rises more than 1.5 degrees above the horizon on the Moon’s poles, which causes long, dark shadows to cross their surface year-round.

For humans travelling to the poles, ideal landing sites will be at higher elevations near the craters to ensure that there’s enough sunlight to power up rovers and other tools.

Michael Barker, NASA Goddard

Only time will tell if there’s water — or something else — lurking in the darkness.

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