NASA’s water-scouting CubeSat is now on its way to lunar orbit. The data from the Lunar IceCube, which is no bigger than a shoe box, will have a huge impact on lunar science.
The satellite has been integrated into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and is ready to travel to the moon as part of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, which is scheduled to launch this year.
Lunar IceCube, which will orbit the moon, will use a spectrometer to study lunar ice. Earlier missions discovered water ice on the moon, but Lunar IceCube will expand NASA’s understanding of lunar ice dynamics.
Scientists are fascinated by the absorption and release of water from the moon’s regolith—its rocky and dusty surface. NASA can map these changes as they occur on the moon thanks to the Lunar IceCube investigation.
The exosphere—the very thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the moon—will also be studied by Lunar IceCube. Understanding the dynamics of water and other substances on the moon will allow scientists to forecast seasonal changes in lunar ice, which will impact its use as a resource in the future.
All of this will be accomplished by a 31-pound CubeSat that is both efficient and cost-effective. Lunar IceCube is one of several CubeSats aboard Artemis I on its way to the moon. These small satellites, along with future Artemis missions, will improve our understanding of how to live and work on the moon, and eventually Mars.