NASA's Lunar Flashlight ready to search for the Moon's water ice

Although it is known that there is water ice beneath the lunar regolith (broken rock and dust), it is unknown whether surface ice frost covers the floors of these chilly craters.

NASA is launching Lunar Flashlight, a tiny satellite (or SmallSat) that is no bigger than a briefcase, to find out. It will use lasers to illuminate these dark craters as it soars low over the lunar South Pole, much like a prospector searching for lost wealth by flashing a spotlight into a cave.

Mid-November will see the launch of the mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

According to John Baker, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, this launch will place the satellite on a trajectory that will take it around three months to reach its science orbit.

Then Lunar Flashlight will attempt to locate water ice on the Moon's surface in locations where no one else has been able to search.

Mission navigators will direct the spacecraft past the Moon after launch. After that, gravity from Earth and the Sun will gradually pull it back, causing it to enter a wide, looping, science-gathering orbit.