New Trailblazer Illustration Depicts Water Ice in the Moon’s Permanently Shadowed Regions

10 January 2020

Lunar Trailblazer debuted a new illustration of water-ice in the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions on January 10th, 2020. Known as PSRs, these areas in the craters of the lunar poles never receive direct sunlight. As a result, they are extremely cold, making them good candidates to characterize water on the Moon’s surface. Although studying these regions can be extremely difficult due to the tiny amount of light, Lunar Trailblazer will be able to study these PSRs and determine the form and nature of the water in these deposits. “We are designing our instrument payload to have a high degree of radiometric sensitivity,” explains principal investigator Bethany Ehlmann, “which will allow us to use terrain-scattered light to peer into the shadows and see these ice deposits at a sub-500 m scale.”

To help communicate how these unobserved water ice deposits may look, artist and designer Hongyu Cui developed a graphic depicting the water ice in a permanently shadowed crater. Cui is one of four inaugural Lunar Trailblazer interns from Pasadena City College. As an interaction design major, she used programs such as Cinema4D and ZBrush to create the graphic of the crater. “I wanted to make sure people understood that the ice occurs only in the shadow of the crater, where it is darkest,” Cui says. “The biggest challenge was making sure the ice was still visible, even though it is only illuminated by reflected light.”

As Lunar Trailblazer approaches its preliminary design review in September 2020, graphics like Cui’s will help communicate what the mission hopes to achieve—and why it matters. “Our mission will help advance future exploration, including by humans, by determining the form of lunar water and where there are operationally useful deposits,” says Ehlmann.

To download a copy of the graphic, go to

By Jasper Miura
Jasper Miura is a Research Technician Associate and Lunar Trailblazer Science Manager at Caltech.