The Moon: What We've Learned So Far

We all know the moon is not made of cheese, but what is it made of?


 Credit: Sylvain Weiller


Believe it or not, there’s a lot of ice on it. Scientists have been able to study samples brought back from the moon’s surface during the Apollo missions. In addition, recent missions like NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, made it possible to study the moon’s composition in space. With LCROSS and LRO, NASA has been able to observe lunar dust within the moon’s craters and make a more detailed lunar topographical study than ever before — and they’ve made some pretty exciting discoveries about the moon’s composition.

The biggest finding, of course, was evidence of water on the moon, but that was only the beginning of the discoveries. Along with water, LCROSS also uncovered evidence that the moon has its own water cycle and that the water is typically present in the form of pure ice crystals.

Scientists were able to study the moon’s composition in 2009 when LCROSS impacted in a deep crater on the moon’s surface, ejecting a plume of material that might not have seen sunlight in millions of years. Instruments on the orbiting LRO satellite picked up traces of ice crystals and other volatiles, compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. As much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was made up of volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver. Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called “cold grain chemistry” is taking place. Scientists have theorized that this process takes thousands of years and could happen on other frigid bodies, like asteroids and moons of other planets.

The moon is more than a giant rock circling Earth; it is a body with its own chemistry and composition that NASA has only just begun to reveal. As NASA looks toward the future for new lunar missions, its knowledge of the moon’s composition could help future explorers. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won’t have to carry their own water source for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could provide possible sources of fuel for future surface activities. Who knows — in a few decades, lunar astronauts may return to Earth using the moon’s own “lunar fuel.”


8 thoughts on “The Moon: What We've Learned So Far”

  1. The last paragraph with the word “that” being used instead of “than” really has to make one wonder if there is intelligence here on earth.Coupled with the thought of mercury or sodium being a metal confirms ones thoughts of evolution in rewind.Who wrote this fantasy blog?

  2. Interesting photos of the moon that the lro has taken….a few noticeable mistakes that nasa have made…firstly when u zoom in and have a real hard look u can see that in certain areas that have been grayed out and using a magnifying glass u can make out what looks like buildings etc and not rock formations (im sure u cant get a rock that is perfectly square and has what looks like steps or windows) which ever software is used is still not perfect but maybe one day it might be shown what is being hidden in crystal clear viewing..also some areas in thew photos have been blurred (wac_gl240.tif)…doesnt look like a data error….looks like it has been done by software as u can still make out something underneath it.???
    so why the secrets, and if there are buildings up there (which im sure there is), why hide it..??

  3. The Moon is known by many Names: Luna, Artemis, Phoebe, Noctiluca.
    These references are but few that describe the Mysterious and Magical Sister of Earth.
    Little is known about it’s beginnings, but that doesn’t deter many Thinkers and Sages from formulating their own Theories.

    Scientific Tradition maintains the Idea of ‘Natural Circumstances’ as an explanation for the Existence of Earth’s Sibling. In these (carefully calculated) teachings, the Silver Disc arose from the Coalesced Detritus of a gestating Solar System.
    To these folk, the Moon is composed of the same Raw Elemental stuff as the other Planets.

    In the Esoteric Text’s of Arcane Sages (some of them quite mad), the Silver Sphere is infused with Divine Energy – the vigilant guardian of the Mortal Soul’s mysteries, and the Harbinger of Omens, Foresight, and Parturiency.
    To these folk, the Moon is composed – not only of the Elements – but also of Psycho-Spiritual Essence.

    Cheese… Elemental By-products… Spirit…
    Whatever you believe, the Jewel of the Night will continue to Ignite our Imaginations for Eons to come.

  4. I work at NASA and have topics/articles that would be suitable for your blog about the Moon. Is it possible to submit them to you for review?

  5. We would welcome your posts. Feel free to submit any ideas you have so we can review them and send them through our normal approval process. Thanks!

  6. So, who do I send them too? I have images and animated gifs included in my articles about the Moon. The comment section doesn’t seem to work. Also, I frankly don’t know who I am addressing in this wiki (no authors are listed as far as I can see).

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