With NASA’s Artemis 1 mission launching to the moon this month, Space.com is examining what we know about the moon and why we care. Join our Moon Week special in the countdown to Artemis 1.
Lunar science will be transformed by NASA’s Artemis lunar program, which will send astronauts to the lunar surface after a more than 50-year absence and launch nearly five dozen robotic missions over the next three years.
This Artemis 1 The mission is currently scheduled to launch on August 29, unmanned Orion Capsule powerful top space launch system Rocket – the biggest and most powerful rocket since NASA Saturn V for Apollo Task.The capsule will travel around moon Pave the way for a manned mission around the moon in 2024 before returning to Earth to splash down, and then land astronauts on the moon’s south pole as early as 2025 or 2026.
This will be the first time astronauts have landed on the moon Apollo 17 The December 1972 mission, which brought new opportunities to science.
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“Humans provide an incredible resource for returning to the lunar surface,” Debra Needham, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, told Space.com.
Purely robotic missions are slow, sending everything back to Earth via their human controllers. While the introduction of artificial intelligence has automated the process to some extent, robots do not have the quick thinking, curiosity or dexterity to make collecting rock samples an efficient process, eg.
“It’s easier for an astronaut to pick up one rock and then out of the corner of his eye to see another rock and notice it immediately,” Ryan Watkins, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space.com. “Real-time Decisions are made faster and more efficiently.”
first landing spot
To do the best science, astronauts must travel to the right place on the moon. 6 Apollo landing site Clustered in a region on the near side of the moon. Artemis 3, which will be the first Artemis mission to put boots into the lunar regolith, will instead venture to South Pole of the MoonNot only is this area attractive due to its abundance of water ice hidden in permanently shadowed craters, but this is the first time astronauts have been there, away from the Apollo landing sites.
“While they were fairly evenly distributed across the surface, the Apollo missions were basically still going to a part of the moon that could be affected by the huge impact that created the sea surface,” Needham said. Mare Imbrium (“Sea of Imbrium”) is a massive, 712-mile-wide (1,146-kilometer) impact basin that formed 3.9 billion years ago and was then flooded by lava.
Scientists speculate that the formation of this impact basin coincided with late heavy bombingwhich was proposed between 4.2 and 3.9 billion years ago, when the inner planets were asteroid and comet. However, recent discoveries (opens in new tab) That theory has been called into question, and sampling other parts of the moon may help settle the debate.
“One of the reasons we’re so far from that impact basin is to be able to get access to different rock types that are probably older and preserve records of older moons,” Needham said. “We’ll be able to get a good idea of whether there’s been a period of really intense bombardment.”
a lot of robotics
Artemis isn’t just about astronauts. While humans will be able to accomplish greater scientific work in less time, plans for just one crewed mission per year mean astronauts won’t be able to be anywhere on the moon.Thus, in Artemis Project, dozens of robotic experiments will be delivered across the moon between 2022 and 2025.These experiments are going through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), in which commercial contractors are working with NASA on a $2.6 billion program to launch small science missions to the moon, with 46 payloads completed.
Watkins said her personal favorite payload is a probe called the Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer (Lunar-VISE), which will land on the site between the Mare Imbrium and Oceanus Procellarum (“Sea of Storms”). On the dome of the Gruithuisen volcano, and Watkins as a student used orbital data for research.
The domes are thought to be siliceous, meaning they were formed from silica-rich magma.But when Earth, siliceous-based volcanic tectonics require plate tectonics and form near plate boundaries in oceans. So how did they form on the moon, which has neither oceans nor plate tectonics? There are some geological theories, and Lunar-VISE will be equipped with a stationary lander and a rover that will take compositional measurements at various locations around the dome to test various theories.
water on the moon
Needham is also excited about the many payloads in the CLPS program, including a near-infrared volatility spectrometer system, a neutron spectrometer system on a small robotic rover called MoonRanger, and a mass spectrometer to observe lunar operations. Multiple copies of the three instruments will be delivered to the moon in 2023 by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technologies and California-based Masten Space Systems later this year. They will work together to detect and study the range of “volatiles” — with low boiling points, such as water and carbon dioxide — on the lunar surface, near the subsurface, and above the surface, in the thin “exosphere.”
“Cleverly, we’re flying several copies of these payloads, the first iteration will go to non-polar regions, and then we’ll also send them to polar regions in later deliveries,” Needham said. “So we’ll be able to compare these two very different parts of the moon using the same instrument.”
At first glance, the moon doesn’t appear to be wet, but inspection of rock samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions found them to be dry. But aside from ice hidden in the cold traps of permanently shadowed craters at the poles, water molecules (or at least hydroxyl molecules, which are representatives of water formed from one oxygen atom linked to one hydrogen atom instead of two) As in the case of water) has been observed to migrate on the lunar surface near the end of day and night.These observations were originally made by NASA’s Lunar Mineralogy Mapper in India Chandrayaan-1 The Lunar Orbiter in 2009, and the Stratospheric Infrared Observatory, which will be retired in 2020 (Sophia), which flew in the rear of a modified Boeing 747, confirmed water molecules near the lunar surfacealbeit in a very thin veneer.
“We now know that there are Water is almost everywhere on the moon“But it’s coming from a different source, not the same water in the Antarctic region,” Needham said. These payloads can give us some real-world measurements from long distances, which are important for input into models describing the lunar water cycle. “
It’s unclear how sustainable the human spaceflight portion of the Artemis lunar program will be, and whether more crewed missions will land on the lunar surface after Artemis 3 because of the cost per launch will exceed $4 billion. On the other hand, the relatively low cost of the CLPS portion of the Artemis program will warrant dozens of scientific experiments across the Moon, providing scientists with an unprecedented amount of new data to decipher.
“We are very much looking forward to the discoveries we will make at new locations on the lunar surface,” Needham said.
NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission will launch on Monday (August 29) within two hours of opening at 8:33AM ET (1233GMT).you can Watch live launch coverage Contributed and followed by NASA Live updates from Space.com in the task.
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