Integration of lunar polar remote-sensing data sets: Evidence for ice at the lunar south pole


  • Stewart Nozette,

  • Paul D. Spudis,

  • Mark S. Robinson,

  • D. B. J. Bussey,

  • Chris Lichtenberg,

  • Robert Bonner


In order to investigate the feasibility of ice deposits at the lunar south pole, we have integrated all relevant lunar polar data sets. These include illumination data, Arecibo ground-based monostatic radar data, newly processed Clementine bistatic radar data, and Lunar Prospector neutron spectrometer measurements. The possibility that the lunar poles harbor ice deposits has important implications not only as a natural resource for future human lunar activity but also as a record of inner solar system volatiles (e.g., comets and asteroids) over the past billion years or more. We find that the epithermal neutron flux anomalies, measured by Lunar Prospector, are coincident with permanently shadowed regions at the lunar south pole, particularly those associated with Shackleton crater. Furthermore, these areas also correlate with the β = 0 circular polarization ratio (CPR) enhancements revealed by new processing of Clementine bistatic radar echoes, which in turn are colocated with areas of anomalous high CPR observed by Arecibo Observatory on the lower, Sun-shadowed wall of Shackleton crater. Estimates of the extent of high CPR from Arecibo Observatory and Clementine bistatic radar data independently suggest that ∼10 km2 of ice may be present on the inner Earth-facing wall of Shackleton crater. None of the experiments that obtained the data presented here were ideally suited for definitively identifying ice in lunar polar regions. By assessing the relative merits of all available data, we find that it is plausible that ice does occur in cold traps at the lunar south pole and that future missions with instruments specifically designed to investigate these anomalies are worthy.