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NASA Selects ‘ShadowCam’ Instrument To Help Explore Moon's Surface For Future Harvesting

First Posted: May 01, 2017 05:20 AM EDT

American space agency NASA has reportedly chosen an instrument that could be used to explore certain areas on the Moon. Called "ShadowCam," scientists hope that it could enable them to find and eventually mine mineral deposits worth trillions of dollars from the lunar soil.

The ShadowCam has been developed by researchers from Malin Space Science Systems and Arizona State University. The instrument will be a U.S.’ contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute's (KARI) first lunar exploration mission -- the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) -- Phys.org has reported.

ShadowCam’s camera is similar to the optical camera based on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera. However, it is much more sensitive and allows the camera to capture high-resolution, high signal-to-noise imaging of the Moon's permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). According to the U.S. space agency, the instrument will search for volatiles as well as further investigate the distribution of minerals that exist on the Moon’s surface.

“Permanently shadowed regions have been a mystery because the perpetually dark interiors are difficult to image and existing research offers varying interpretations regarding the distribution of volatiles within these cold regions,” Director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division Jason Crusan said, according to a Deccan Chronicle report. Crusan also added that future missions in deep space would be safer and more affordable if humans have the ability to harvest resources on the Moon. Furthermore, the ShadowCam has the potential to greatly increase mankind’s understanding of the quality of abundance of those resources in the PSRs.

To be launched in 2018, the Shadowcam will study the PSRs on a monthly basis to find seasonal changes. It will also measure the terrain inside the enigmatic craters in the PSRs, including boulder distribution. Eventually, ShadowCam images will be merged with the Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images to make complete maps of inside and outside of craters that host PSRs. While the NAC covers the illuminated areas, ShadowCam will take photos of the shadowed areas.

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