With the help of the Artemis project, I hope to solve the mysteries of the moon

It was December 1972. Three American astronauts on the Apollo 17 mission are returning to Earth. Applause at the end of the show and the beginning of space disinterest. “Take seismometers, there’s been nothing on the lunar surface since then, so all our data goes back to the Apollo program.”To quote Jessica Flahaut, a lunar geologist at CNRS and the University of Lorraine. “As a result, we still cannot be sure whether the Moon’s core is liquid or solid. »

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Many other questions about our pale neighbors remain unanswered. Where did the strong magnetic fields that existed in the past come from and why did they disappear? Why are the hidden and visible sides so geologically different? Even, how was this natural satellite born? “The general consensus is that the Moon formed after a large object struck Earth, but its past evolution remains unclear”acknowledges Agnès Fienga, astronomer at the Côte d’Azur Observatory.

It’s also there: while we think it’s completely dry, the moon actually contains water. As instruments developed, further analysis of samples brought back by Apollo showed minimal presence in the rock, and in 2009, Indian probe Chandrayaan-1 highlighted water ice at the southern tip of the pole. That’s where the next Artemis mission goes.

Learn about the Moon, Earth and the Universe

Agnès Fienga admits, “We can easily imagine it’s lifeless, but the moon is a beautiful laboratory close to home and it can teach us a lot”. On itself, and on Earth. For example, thanks to our nocturnal companions, scientists have learned about the existence of “magma oceans” that must have covered the surfaces of rocky planets like Earth at the beginning of their history.

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“Everything that happened 4.5 billion years ago is still inscribed on the surface of the Moon, unlike Earth, whose crust is constantly being renewed by plate tectonics and volcanic activity”, recalls Jessica Flahaut. As Agnès Fienga sums it up: “The mechanisms that can be studied on the moon are comparable to other mechanisms in the solar system. »

Finally, in the long run, the Moon could serve as a basis for studying deep space. For example, install an X-ray field observatory on its hidden side, which can observe the universe undisturbed. So, 50 years after Apollo 17, to say that the “reconquest of the moon” has delighted scientists is an understatement. Expectations are huge. And this, even after the launch of the first mission in the spring, I am afraid that astronauts will not be able to set foot on the lunar regolith until 2026.


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