Highly detailed "Supermoon" Pink Moon image with a star field background

1315175642

Highly detailed "Supermoon" Pink Moon image with a star field background

Photo by: Javier Zayas Photography

Javier Zayas Photography

What We Learn from the Lunar Surface

Sure, the Moon is cool to look at, and fun to think about it. And it literally affects us here on the Earth: without the Moon, we’d be missing half our tides, and likely our planet’s rotation wouldn’t be as stable as it is.

September 29, 2022

With all the talk of NASA’s Artemis missions returning humanity to the Moon for the first time in nearly half a century, you might be wondering: why?

First off, let’s address human exploration vs robotic rovers. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) currently has a rover operating on the far side of the Moon, and it’s delivering a lot of quality science. Other space agencies around the world are planning even more remote missions. So why should we send humans? Even though humans require a lot more time, effort, and money to get into space (not to mention the increased risk), people are orders of magnitude more capable and self-sufficient than even the best robots.

Humans can make decisions, act and react, try new ideas, spot interesting new things, and make adjustments all in the span of a single mission – something that robots can’t deliver. If we want science to be done quickly and completely, it’s going to take a person.

As for the science itself, the lunar surface is a time machine. Have you ever noticed all those craters scarring the face of the Moon? The Earth doesn’t have that same level of cratering because our surface constantly replaces itself. The slow action of wind and water erode more recent craters and the evidence of impacts from long ago but pulled under the surface through tectonic action.

The Moon has no air or liquid water, and its surface solidified from molten state billions of years ago. The surface of the Moon is almost perfectly pristine, containing a record of the history of violence in the solar system for the past 4 billion years.

Ironically, we can learn more about the Earth’s past from the Moon than from the Earth itself. We believe that the Moon is literally a chunk of the Earth ripped off when an object the size of Mars crashed into our planet in its infancy. But just like the craters, the history of our world has largely been pulled deep below the surface and away from easy observation.

But not the Moon. The lunar samples brought back from the Apollo missions revealed that our satellite had the exact same composition of elements as the Earth. By studying what the Moon is made of, and understanding how exactly it formed, we can learn about the birth and early evolution of our own planet.

So yeah, let’s go back to the Moon.

Next Up

What Comes After the Moon and Mars?

Space hotels may be in our future.

NASA Launches CAPSTONE to Test Experimental Orbit Around the Moon

In preparation for future missions, NASA is testing a never-been-flown-before orbit around the Moon in search of the most efficient deep space route for space travel.

Scientists in China Discover Rare Moon Crystal that Could Power Earth

A rare lunar crystal found on the near side of the moon is giving scientists hope of providing limitless power for the world – forever.

South Korea Joins Space Race by Sending its First Spacecraft to the Moon

South Korea is launching its first lunar probe to the moon on August 4th. The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) or Danuri, developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is being launched to study moon carters, magnetic fields, and surface weathering.

A Guide to this August’s Best Astronomy Attractions

Learn more about the exciting things happening in the night sky this month! From the rings of Saturn to the most popular meteor shower of the year, August 2022 has us stargazing all month.

Six Planets are Retrograde, What Does that Mean for You?

Spoiler alert: It's an optical illusion.

Watch Out! Amateur Astronomer Watches as Jupiter Gets Whacked

Jupiter is the OG best friend in the solar system. It finds all the tiny little comets and asteroids heading for the vulnerable inner planets and takes one for the team, chewing up the dangerous rocks in its thick atmosphere. It happened again just recently, and this time an amateur astronomer caught it in the act.

Astronomers May Have Found a Rare “Free-Floating” Black Hole

How do you see a perfectly black object in the middle of a pitch-dark night? It sounds like the start of an annoying riddle, but it’s really the question faced by astronomers when they want to search for black holes.

Watch NASA's Asteroid-Crashing DART Mission Make Impact

NASA sent a spacecraft on a mission to crash into an asteroid, so how did it go?Updated 9/26/22

Want to Name a Planet? Now’s Your Chance

Read on to learn about this rare opportunity to name a distant world observed by the James Webb Telescope.

Related To: