April 13, 2005

Ideal Location for Moon Colony Found

PARIS (AFP) -- Astronomers say they have identified a place on the Moon that lies in permanent sunlight and close to regions suspected to hold water ice: in short, an ideal location for a tentative lunar colony.

The spot is located on a highland close to the lunar north pole, between three large impact craters called Peary, Hermite and Rozhdestvensky, they report in Thursday's issue of Nature, the British weekly science journal.

The temperature there is estimated to range between minus 40 and minus 60 C (minus 40 to minus 76 F), which by lunar standards is relatively balmy -- and stable.

By comparison, the temperature on the Moon's equator ranges from minus 180 C to plus 100 C (minus 292 to plus 212 F).

Because the area is bathed in perpetual sunlight, a future human outpost on the Moon could draw on abundant solar energy.

In addition, the lunar pioneers could tap into supplies of water if -- as some scientists speculate -- ice lurks in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles.

The study is lead-authored by Ben Bussey of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland.

In January 2004, President George W. Bush sketched plans for a US return to the Moon as early as 2015, saying a lunar base would be a launch pad for manned missions to Mars and "across our Solar System."


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