We know the moon has water – tons. Future lunar settlers could use this water to make breathable oxygen, potable water, and perhaps most importantly, rocket fuel. And we should be able to access it much easier than we thought.
Artemis III should offer our first chance to directly study the moon’s water content. We want to get a better idea of what state it is in, whether it’s permanent or part of a fluctuating water cycle, how widely it is distributed, and if we can really get it. harvest to get something useful out of it. If there are some places or geological structures where it should be more abundant, we will want to check that as well. Artemis III crews will be able to dig into the ground to see if this water ice can be found at shallow depths, and they will be armed with instruments capable of analyzing its character more closely.
History of the earth
The state of the moon can tell us something about what the Earth experienced billions of years ago. Because the moon is a desolate place with no atmosphere, its surface is a pristine record of meteor impacts over time. Taking into account the accumulation of craters and their formation, we can glean information about what neighboring Earth has also faced over time, especially during times of the solar system when there were many more big rocks rushing through space. Perhaps they were responsible for providing important elements and organics to help life evolve? Maybe the moon could tell us more.
Artemis III will not be able to study all the craters on the Moon. But the measurements and direct observations of even a few can tell us what types of rocks hit the moon long ago and what they were made of, giving us a better idea of what was swirling around the solar system at the time. and who probably would have landed. on Earth too.
The story of the sun
Yes, we can even use the moon to study the sun. The airless moon has an ancient crust that has essentially witnessed billions of years of changes in solar winds and cosmic rays. We can measure specific variations in the electromagnetic spectrum in the lunar soil to get clues about how the sun’s radiation and heat have changed over the years.
Once we’re up there, we can take a look back. We are already doing this using satellites in our planet’s orbit, but the moon is also a convenient platform from which we can do earth science. NASA report says the moon could likely help scientists make observations at a higher resolution than satellites stationed at Lagrange point L1 (a popular orbit for Earth science observatories), thanks to its proximity. The surveys could provide insight into lightning, the amount of light reflected from the Earth, atmospheric chemistry, ocean science, etc. At a time when climate science is so critical, the moon might end up helping us more accurately calculate how fast the planet is warming.
Lunar gravity experiments
The moon’s gravity is only one-sixth that of the Earth, in an environment completely exposed to the vacuum of space. This means there is a huge opportunity to conduct a ton of complex physics experiments. We could learn more about combustion and how fires spread through space (something with safety implications for future astronauts). It’s interesting to see how different chemicals might react in this type of microgravity. There will be chances to better understand the fluid dynamics for a multitude of different liquids. The list is lengthened increasingly.
Artemis III won’t go through most of these experiences at all, but it will go a long way in educating us about the types of investigations that can start in Artemis IV, V and beyond.
Many of the scientific goals discussed here cannot be achieved on the Moon alone, and that is why we need to bring samples back to Earth. Examples of return missions are popular these days. Japan just brought back materials from an asteroid. NASA is currently doing the same for another asteroid, and it also has a Mission to return samples to Mars scheduled for later. China just picked up rubble on the moon and is expected to bring these materials back to Earth in just a few days.
According to its report, NASA wants the Artemis III crew to collect a diverse set of samples from many different locations, across a broad geological spectrum. And it wants to bring back a greater total mass of materiel than the average Apollo mission. More samples means we don’t have to be so careful about the types of experiments we conduct anymore. If we want to expose moon rocks to conditions that could change them forever, we can do so knowing that there is still plenty left.