As countries compete to dominate the new era space race, the Moon has emerged as a hot piece of territory that may serve as a base for greater exploration of the cosmos as humanity strives to become an interplanetary species. However, it is possible that it is the location of certain rare-earth element minerals and resources.
Researchers have identified the lunar South Pole as a significant site that would harbour these minerals and resources while concealing a number of Earth's natural satellite's most critical mysteries, such as how it originated in the first place and how other worlds within the system evolved.
The answer might be within the pieces of the Moon's interior scattered on the surface.
Researchers developed a replacement understanding of the lunar surface by studying recent observations made by spacecraft hovering in orbit and by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that was on board India's Chandrayaan-I impact probe. According to the study, which was published in Nature Communications and the Journal of Geophysical Research, the lunar surface is old and well-preserved, including traces of system history and planetary evolution processes.
The new understanding of the lunar mantle was developed because the team reviewed the most recent laboratory experiments and lunar sample analysis.
Magma Oceans on the Moon
Shortly after it had been formed, the Moon was a worldwide ocean of molten magma that cooled, solidified, and therefore the dense minerals sank to make the mantle layer. However, huge asteroids and comets ploughed through the crust, blasting off chunks of the mantle and spreading them across the surface. Nasa now aims to gather these mantle pieces to be returned to Earth, which will provide a far better understanding of how the Moon and our planet evolved over the millennium.
Magma ocean creation may be a widespread phenomenon across rocky planets and moons throughout our solar system and beyond, and the Earth's Moon is the most accessible and well-preserved body to study these fundamental processes.
"Understanding these processes in more depth will have ramifications for critical follow-up issues, such as how early heating affects the distribution of water and atmospheric gases on a planet. Is there any water left, or has it all been boiled away? What are the consequences for early habitability, and therefore life's emergence? "Daniel Moriarty of Nasa was asked.
Designing Lunar Map
The new understanding of the lunar mantle was developed because the team reviewed the most recent laboratory experiments, lunar sample analysis, and geophysical and geochemical models of the Moon. Using data from NASA's Lunar Prospector and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions, as well as the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument onboard Chandrayaan-I, they created a map of possible mantle sites to analyse mineral composition and abundance. Researchers integrated the mantle locations with Lunar Prospector observations of elemental abundances, including markers of the last remaining liquid at the top of lunar magma ocean crystallisation, and located that the South Pole Aitken basin on the Moon, which is about 2,600 kilometres across, is the most likely place to seek out pieces of the mantle. "This northwest area of the South Pole Aitken Basin is the greatest site for accessing excavated mantle elements that are now on the lunar surface. Surprisingly, some of these elements can also be found at the proposed Artemis and VIPER landing sites near the lunar South Pole, "Moriarty stated.
The basin is the largest confirmed impact structure on the Moon and thus is related to the deepest depth of excavation of all lunar basins.
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