MOREHEAD, Ky. - A Kentucky program is assisting with an upcoming NASA moon mission. Students at Morehead State University designed a Lunar IceCube satellite.

That CubeSat is one of thirteen launching with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built.

“It’s a huge thing for us,” Morehead State University Astrophysics Assistant Professor Dr. Dirk Grupe said.

Each of the CubeSats will be tasked with different missions. The Lunar IceCube designed at Morehead State will be collecting data about the presence of water and ice resources on the moon. 

“Finding water ice on the moon and mapping it so we know exactly where it is is vital to getting astronauts back into space, to the moon, to Mars and beyond because that really lowers the cost of getting to space because you don’t have to worry about sending water up with them if you can find it on the moon,” Morehead State University astrophysics student Rebecca Mikula said.

Another reason tracking water on the moon is important is because water can be broken down to create rocket fuel.

“We can use the moon as a stepping stool, as a gas station so to speak, to get to Mars,” Grupe said.

Morehead students will actually be the ones collecting data on this mission that is so important for space exploration.

“I chose Morehead State because it’s such a hands-on program,” Mikula said.

The experience gained through this program helps launch careers.

“They basically do the work of NASA engineers,” Grupe said.

The Lunar IceCube is set to launch in 2021.