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Landon Jackson
Landon Jackson

Naden Lunar Mare

the Moon has been Earth's companion since the birth of the Solar System, 4.6 billion years ago. Ancient humans were captivated by the Moon's cycles as it changed position, shape and vanished from the sky for part of its 29-day cycle. Stone age peoples recorded the phases of the Moon in various ways, as the observation of the Moon gave them a way to count the passage of days and predict the arrival of the seasons. Activities key to the development of human civilization like agriculture and hunting absolutely depended on reliable timekeeping, so all human societies developed ways to determine the length of the year. We see evidence of this in places like Stonehenge, where the position of some of the stones seem to be related to lunar cycle. These calendar systems also dictated when the year should begin and how to divide the year into smaller units of time. In fact, although the modern Gregorian calendar is based on the solar year, the earliest calendars were all based on the lunar cycle.

Naden Lunar Mare

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In 1664, English scientist Robert Hooke was the first to investigate the nature and origin of the circular features on the Moon. He made detailed observations and conducted experiments to explain their formation as the result of impacts or volcanic processes. Giovanni Basttista Riccioli, a Jesuit priest and academic, in 1651 published a naming for features on the Moon that is still largely in use today. Riccioli called the dark lowland areas "seas" or "mare" in Latin and named them after the mythological qualities that the Moon was thought to possess (for example, tranquility and fertility). He also named craters after well-known philosophers, religious figures, and scientists.

A rocket is a vehicle or device that obtains thrust by forcing or pushing extremely hot gasses at high speed out of a specially-shaped nozzle. In turn, the gasses push back on the rocket in the opposite direction, propelling the rocket forward. Unlike a jet engine, a rocket must carry both fuel and an oxidizer, such as oxygen, that allows the fuel to burn. Because rockets carry their own oxidizer, they can operate outside of Earth's atmosphere in the vacuum of space, making space voyages possible. In fact, rockets operate more efficiently in space than they do in the Earth's atmosphere! Rockets that carry spacecraft are called launch vehicles, and need to reach a speed of 17,500 MPH to achieve orbit around the Earth and 25,000 MPH to escape Earths orbit for lunar voyages.

A total of 382 kg of lunar rocks were returned from the Moon by the Apollo lunar surface exploration missions. The fieldwork and sampling performed by the Apollo astronauts fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the Solar System. For example, before the Apollo missions, it was thought that the Moon was an undifferentiated primordial body left over from the formation of the Solar System, but analysis of the lunar samples revealed that the Moon is an evolved planet, with internal zoning similar to that of the Earth.

During their original explorations of the Moon, U.S. Astronauts gave informal names to lunar landmarks as navigational aids while they maneuvered the first human explorations of the lunar frontier. Visual navigation was a critical check for the Apollo astronauts as they descended upon the lunar surface, and these landmarks played a key role in the success of their missions. Many of the Apollo-era landmarks appear in radio transmissions, transcripts, historical records, technical reports, pre and post-mission documentation, and maps, but a majority of the names are not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union.

The Clementine spacecraft orbited the Moon and collected science data for 10 weeks in the Spring of 1994. During this time, it collected global multispectral images and near-global altimetry. Select areas of the Moon were imaged at 25 m/pixel in visible light and 60 m/pixel in thermal wavelengths. From these data, a new paradigm for the evolution of the lunar crust emerged. the Moon is no longer viewed as a two-terrane planet, the Apollo samples were found not to represent the lunar crust as a whole, and the complexity of lunar crustal stratigraphy was further revealed.

NASA's Lunar Prospector Mission orbited the Moon from 1998-1999 and provided important new insights into the origin and evolution of the lunar crust. It carried no cameras, but rather an array of instruments to produce the first global maps of the Moon's gravity, magnetic field, and surface composition. Two instruments in particular produced vital results: the Neutron Spectrometer, which was designed to detect the water hypothesized to exist in some places on the Moon's surface , and the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (LP-GRS), which directly measured the global distribution of key elements such as iron, potassium, and thorium on the Moon's surface for the first time. The LP-GRS was particularly sensitive to thorium, which is naturally radioactive. This gave lunar scientists their first look at the global distribution of an important thorium-rich lunar material known as KREEP (for Potassium, Rare Earth Elements, and Phosphorous).

Before the Lunar Prospector mission, it was assumed that KREEP materials were a component in a nearly global layer beneath the lunar crust, but the Lunar Prospector results showed that the KREEP materials were concentrated on the lunar nearside, a fact which could be related to the distribution and longevity of lunar mare volcanism.

Although the Moon rocks brought back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts contain no water or hydrous minerals, there are permanently shadowed regions near the north and south poles where sunlight never penetrates. These shadowed regions act as cold traps for volatiles deposited by cometary impacts. Lunar Prospector's Neutron Spectrometer instrument detected high levels of hydrogen (presumably, the H in H2O) at both lunar poles. This has been interpreted to reflect the possible presence of water ice in these craters. Water can be used for life support, agriculture, and propellant, so ice would be a vital resource for future lunar settlers. Understanding how much water exists at the lunar poles remains an important goal of the LRO mission and future lunar exploration. 041b061a72


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