Why Study the Moon?

Victoria Friedensen, HQ program executive for LCROSS, weighs in on why the Moon is far from a case of “been there, done that…”

I think that sometimes we treat the Moon with a BTDT attitude — you know, “been there, done that?” But really, have we really done that?

The Moon is our closest neighbor, but like many of us today, how well do we know this neighbor? Have we gone by, looked closely, and gotten to know this friendly presence better?

It’s right there, look up: it’s beautiful, changeable, but no mysteries right? There are a couple of really good mysteries there — as well as some really good galactic history. Two questions intriguing planetary scientists today are why the gravity of the moon is uneven and why there is so much hydrogen at the lunar poles. These questions are important as the answers can inform our understanding of Earth’s past, and our future. If we can understand the variations in gravity of the moon — that was formed at the same time as Earth — we can better understand the gravity variations of Earth (and maybe understand gravity a bit better — very mysterious stuff, gravity). There are unexpected amounts of hydrogen at the lunar poles; one hypothesis is that it is from ancient cometary water ice that never evaporated having never been exposed to sunlight. If there is water on the moon, it could become a very important resource for future human activities there. The LRO and LCROSS missions will seek answers to both these mysteries.

As for galactic history? The moon is bombarded constantly and, because there is no “environment” that changes, everything stays there — to be read closely. We’re in the midst of a lunar research program that will provide us with new knowledge of how our solar system came to be, and how our own galaxy formed. This is pretty good stuff and it’s right next door. Kind of like finding out that the kindly neighbor next door used to the Librarian of Congress and knows everything.

We’re going back to the moon to spend some time. I believe we will find this celestial neighbor informative and fascinating. And in learning more from our neighbor we will learn more about our home and ourselves.

15 thoughts on “Why Study the Moon?”

  1. Please I was looking for a photo and explanation about what is the difference between New and Full moons. I’m an English teacher and I need it as a visual aid and better explanation for my students.
    Thank you in advance.

    Rebeca C. Curta

  2. Great launch of the LRO…I watched it from my computer. Now it is time to get Endeavour up so we can all get out there for some fun!

    Michael Langley
    Atlanta, Georgia

  3. Fantastic Launch!!!! I was able to watch the entire event from my desk computer. Congratulations, I’m excited we are taking another look at our closest celestial neighbor.

  4. Wonderful lift off. Watched on NASA channel on tv. Looked really good and seemed to everything it was programmed to do. Congratulation NASA team you still make america proud!!

  5. If you were born in the 1950’s, as I was, and heard or saw John F. Kennedy’s speech in 1963 (I was only 4 or 5 at the time), the strategic threat was from the Russians, who today, are our allies
    (i.e. the current North Korean conflict) along with the Chinese.
    However, the Chinese now have the capability to land a “Man on
    the Moon”, and now we have a new strategy. They (the Chinese) have
    put satellites in orbit which are higher than than any other currently orbiting satellite.
    Our strategy originally, was intelligence collection. However, governmental policies changed that, supposedly, and made Space our
    new “adventure” as Human Beings.
    My comment is that we will never really “colonize” Space as our
    “new frontier”. Gene Roddenbery had it right. Human Beings and current society contains too much violence, as pointed out by the
    original series “Star Trek” of the 1960’s. If you have watch as many
    episodes as I have, there was a parellel to what was going on in the
    world (on Earth) at the time, and even today. The “Klingons and Romulans” represented countries on this Earth who the United States found as threats, and still today.
    Our latest launch (today) is a mere “toss in the bucket” of the latest technology.
    When the time comes, we as Human Beings will finally live together
    the way it is suppose to be, unless of course, we never “grow up”.
    This message also goes for those on this Earth who have the power (money) to do something about it. Until we outlaw the word “kill”
    and learn to live in peace, we will never leave this planet.
    And it is said that us Human Beings are intelligent?

  6. Is there any way to see items we left on the moon from the Apollo missions?

    It would be great to be able to go out some night and use a telescope to see stuff like a rover or something sitting there. 🙂

  7. why start with such a great impact. The bigger the bomb the better the data? What chance of creating a wobble, disrupting tides, wind & water currents, creating a spin, that may wind up the magnetosphere. Or crack the moon so the next hit, natural or man made destroys it and life as we know it. Did Nasa ask permission on the world stage?

    I didn’t give permission. I’m appalled and horrified.


  9. OMG i didnt now anything bout da moon thts kool i wouldnt of have been on here if it wasnt for homework my hw was bout y we should continue to study da moon i think we should continue to study da moon because der might be water on der thts preety amazin nd it could help figure some of earths past nd future… well anyways i learned alot in my 1 hour 30 min i have been sittin here it really helped me wit ma hw so thts kool like wat kind of things might we find on the moon from like our history?????? how hard do craters hit the earth compared to da moon???
    Frm a 9th nd 8th grader okk

  10. hello,

    Do we have seismic sensors to detect the rumblings or meteorite strikes on the Moon?

  11. Hello,

    on my widows XP desktop I have a picture called “Radiance” is a good picture of the moon. I was wondering if the large crescent of mountains along the bottom 1/3 of right side the frame is a ring of a monster hit forming a crescent ridge. saw something on TV about giant rings found in Australia that were not seen from being on the ground.

    was just pondering?


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