NASA Goddard to Investigate the Stormy Moon
“Many people think of the moon as dead, but if you look with a different pair of glasses – at the atomic level – it is very active,” said Dr.
The award, one of seven announced by NASA Headquarters
DREAM researchers will study many ways the sun influences the moon, but some interactions will be of special interest to human explorers: solar storms, the electric charging of lunar dust, and the erosion of potential resources at the poles.
Solar storms are caused by powerful events on the sun, like billion-ton eruptions of gas called coronal mass ejections or explosions equivalent to million-megaton nuclear bombs called solar flares. The reaction of the lunar surface to such events will be studied closely by the DREAM team because they present significant hazards to unprotected astronauts. First, the storms have intense radiation that can cause human sickness. Second, they could make the surface electrostatic charging more intense, as they generate strong solar winds along with more intense solar ultraviolet and X radiation. Models of solar storms and their effects on the lunar surface will be developed and applied in the project.
The moon is blanketed in a layer of dust formed by countless impacts from microscopic meteorites. The dust is jagged, like shards of glass, because the moon’s atmosphere is too thin to blow it around and grind it smooth like wind does to sand on Earth. Lunar dust might cause health problems if astronauts inhale it, and it could damage sensitive equipment. Solar wind and radiation give dust at the lunar surface an electric charge, so it becomes “clingy”, as frustrated Apollo astronauts noted. The DREAM researchers will see if there are places and times where this electrostatic charging is especially severe – like during a solar storm.
Some scientists believe there may be deposits of water as ice, or hydrogen, a component of water, in the bottoms of lunar craters at the poles. These areas may be in permanent shadow and thus extremely cold and able to store ice or hydrogen for billions of years if it was somehow transported there, perhaps gradually deposited by the solar wind or suddenly as vapor from a comet impact. If such deposits exist and it is practical to mine them, they could be a valuable resource because it costs about
Scientists at Goddard will collaborate with partners at the