If NASA’s planning stays on the rails politically, technically and financially, the United States will plant new footprints on the moon at the end of 2025.
This landing, on a mission called Artemis 3It will be the first human landing on the Moon since the Apollo 17 astronauts stirred up the gray dust in December 1972.
Artemis 3 aims to be the first of a number of human missions to Artemis Polar Exploration Zone – the polar region at 84 degrees south latitude.
Choosing a safe, flag-worthy landing area for Artemis 3 is a difficult task. But there is no doubt that great discoveries lie ahead – and one of the potential surprises could be the discovery of life the moon.
Related: NASA’s Artemis 3 mission: landing humans on the moon
The pits are very cold
New research suggests that future visitors to the moon’s south pole region should be on the lookout for evidence of life in frigid, permanently shadowed craters – organisms that could have made the journey from Land.
It’s possible that microbial life could survive in the extreme conditions near the moon’s south pole, suggested Prabal Saxena, a planetary researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Saxena told Space.com.
In fact, the Lunar South Pole It may possess properties that could enable the survival and perhaps even the occasional growth of some microbial life, Saxena said.
“We are currently working to understand which specific organisms may be most suitable for surviving in such regions and which regions in the lunar polar regions, including places of interest and relevant for exploration, may be more suitable for supporting life,” he said.
In work presented at a recent science workshop on potential Artemis 3 landing sites, Saxena and study members report that the moon’s south pole may contain large surface niches that could be habitable for a number of microorganisms.
Related: See the Artemis 3 landing area near the moon’s south pole in stunning new NASA images
Earth history – on ice
Could samples of Earth’s history lurk in lunar craters shy of the Sun?
Perhaps small pieces of our planet were thrown to the Moon as “earth meteorites” – rocks blasted into space by powerful cosmic impacts.
This is indeed a possibility, said Heather Graham, an organic geochemist at NASA Goddard who is also a member of the study team. But this does not mean that Earth’s microbes also survived that deep space flight.
“While extraterrestrial transport of organic molecules from meteorite sources is very likely, and has already been observed in our terrestrial meteorite analysis, Transfer of microbes Graham said similar sources do not have the same weight of evidence. “It may be an interesting idea, but without applicable data this pathway cannot be included in this study.”
Most importantly, Graham said, the study team is acutely aware of the many ways humans are the largest vector of microbes to the Moon.
“We will soon have 50 years of human history and stuff on the surface with no stringent requirements in terms of pollution in the future,” she said.
“We view humans as the most likely carrier given the extensive data we have on exploration history and impact history as a second, albeit less impactful, terrestrial source,” Graham added.
Micro ports are shielded
Graham noted that the way the study team deals with this problem is not necessarily because they believe the Artemis missions will trigger a flood of microbes immediately near the moon’s south pole in a “bedroom refrigerator” scenario.
“Instead…we will deposit cardiospores in protected microports where the temperature extremes and radiation shielding features of that location allow them to persist,” Graham said. “This is the end of the scale for survival with spores.”
Over time, Graham said, continued exploration of the moon could provide water and carbon sources for these sites, which could one day lead to growth.
Itinerary of Artemis
A possible impact from increased traffic to the moon was also projected by Paul Lucy of the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
“There is no doubt that the final approaches of the Artemis spacecraft will deposit carbon dioxide and water ice in permanently shaded areas along the flight path and may jeopardize some types of investigations,” Lucy told Space-Profound.org.
On the other hand, we now have little understanding of how lunar ice is deposited, “so these are going to be very interesting experiments, given the right hardware,” said Losey.
Lucy noted that there will likely not be a comprehensive survey of their abundance before the first surface flights of Artemis, so unfortunately the natural background of the Moon’s south pole will not be known. (One Artemis mission has been launched so far – Artemis 1which went into lunar orbit last fall.)
Lucy said the moon’s north pole would be better preserved, but spacecraft exhaust could also affect the north via translocation. Lunar “outer shell”. – Its very thin and weak envelope of gases.
Saxena concluded that considerations of how to investigate a site on the lunar surface, if it is close to potentially habitable areas, should be taken into account for future site assessment and transit planning.
“The planning methods and related strategies, technologies and devices that may be involved may be valuable for Mars exploration as well,” he said.
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