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Lunar gold rush? Ice Favorability Index gives prospectors a chance to strike big on the moon — study

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(Kitco News) New research gives space mining prospectors a better chance of “striking gold” on the moon — whether it be mining minerals or making fuel.

A team of scientists from the University of Central Florida has successfully created an Ice Favorability Index, which is essentially a map that shows craters that may hold ice deposits.

“There has not yet been a coherent geologic model put forward for how ice deposits have formed and evolved that can be used to assist in planning prospecting campaigns or developing relevant hardware. Here, we propose a system model for understanding these deposits at scales of meters to hectares,” the paper published in the journal Icarus stated. “Geologic system model describes lunar ice deposits as potential economic resources.”

There is still very little that is known in terms of minerals available for mining on the moon, which is what makes this new study essential, according to lead author of the paper Kevin Cannon.

“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,” Cannon said. “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.”

To create this new Ice Favorability Index, Cannon’s team took some tips from the mining companies’ playbooks.

“Mining companies conduct field mappings, take core samples from the potential site and try to understand the geological reasons behind the formation of the particular mineral they are looking for in an area of interest. In essence, they create a model for what a mining zone might look like before deciding to plunk down money to drill,” he said.

These water ice deposits can also be potentially turned into much-needed things like fuel for future space exploration, the study added.

“We found the best ice deposits for extracting likely exist 10s of cm deep or more, even in locations where ice is currently stable at the very surface. Terrestrial mining software was then used to create block models and grade/tonnage curves that can inform future in-situ resource utilization demonstration missions and future mining operations planning,” the paper said.

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