NASA launches a “priority” mission to explore mysterious domes on the moon.
The space agency has announced that a rover will visit the domes of Gruithuisen, a geological feature that has long puzzled scientists.
It is suspected that these domes were formed by viscous magma rich in silica, similar in composition to granite.
However, such formations on Earth would need to form oceans of liquid water and plate tectonics, but without these key components on the Moon, lunar scientists are left wondering how they formed and evolved over time.
The Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer (Lunar-VISE), scheduled for 2025, will consist of a set of five instruments, two of which will be mounted on a fixed lander and three on a mobile rover to be offered as a service by the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative (CLPS) vendor. ).
Over the course of ten Earth days (one lunar day), Lunar-VISE will explore the top of one of Gruithuisen’s domes.
By analyzing the lunar regolith at the top of one of these domes, data collected and returned by the Lunar-VISE instruments will help scientists answer fundamental open questions about how these formations came to be.
Announced June 2, as part of the “Priority Artemis Science” mission, the data will also help inform future robotic and human missions to the Moon.
“We have a lunar mystery at our fingertips! The Gruithuisen domes are a geological puzzle,” said Caroline Capone of NASA.
Based on telescopic observations and early spacecraft, these domes have long been believed to have been formed by silica-rich magma, similar in composition to granite. The real mystery is how this silicified magma could have formed on the Moon.
In order to truly understand these puzzling features, we need to visit and explore the domes from the ground and analyze the rock samples. Fortunately, NASA plans to do just that!
“I hope, in just a couple of years we will understand this lunar mystery better!”
Adding to the growing list of commercial deliveries scheduled to explore more of the Moon than ever before under Artemis, NASA has also selected a second probe: the Lunar Explorer Instrument for Space Biology Applications (LEIA) science suite is a small CubeSat-based instrument.
LEIA will provide lunar biological research — which cannot be simulated or replicated in high resolution on Earth or the International Space Station — by delivering the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to the lunar surface and studying its response to lunar radiation and gravity.
“The two selected studies will address important scientific questions related to the Moon,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The first will study the geological processes of early planetary bodies preserved on the Moon, by investigating a rare form of lunar volcanoes. The second will study the effects of the moon’s low-gravity and radiation environment on yeast, a model organism used to understand the response and repair of DNA damage.
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