It was December 1972. The three American astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission were returning to Earth. Applause at the end of the program and the beginning of spatial disinterest. “Take the seismometers, there haven’t been any on the Moon since then, so all the data we have goes back to the Apollo program”Jessica Flahaut, a lunar geologist at the National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Lorraine, quoted Jessica Flahaut as saying. “As a result, we still do not know for sure whether the moon has a liquid or a solid core.”
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Many other questions remain unanswered about our pale neighbour. Where did the strong magnetic field that existed in the past come from and why did it disappear? Why are the hidden side and visible side different geologically? And even, how exactly was this natural satellite born? “The general consensus is that the Moon formed after a large object collided with the Earth, but its previous evolution is still not entirely clear.”admits Agnès Fienga, an astronomer at the Côte d’Azur Observatory.
It’s there, too: While we thought it was completely dry, the moon actually contains water. With the development of instruments, additional analyzes of samples returned by Apollo showed the presence of ultrafine in the rocks, while in 2009, the Indian probe Chandrayaan-1 shed light on water ice at the Antarctic level. This is where the next Artemis missions will go.
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Agnes Fienga admits this, “We can easily imagine it dead and gloomy, but the Moon is a beautiful laboratory close to home and has a lot to teach us.” On himself, but also on the ground. It is, for example, that it was thanks to our nocturnal companion that scientists understood the existence of “magma oceans”, which must have covered the surface of rocky planets like Earth at the beginning of their history.
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“Everything that happened for 4.5 billion years is still engraved on the surface of the Moon, unlike the Earth, where the crust is constantly replenished by plate tectonics and volcanoes”Jessica Flahaut remembers. As summarized by Agnes Fienga: “The mechanisms that can be studied on the Moon can be compared with other mechanisms in the Solar System.”
Finally, in the long term, the Moon could serve as a basis for deep space studies. For example, installing an observatory on its side hidden in the X-ray field, which will observe the universe without interference. Fifty years after the Apollo 17 mission, it would be an exaggeration to say that “reclaiming the moon” delights scientists. Expectations are huge. That is, even if after the first mission launches in the spring, it will likely be necessary to wait until 2026 for astronauts to set foot on the lunar regolith.
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