NASA will spend $35 million on a new mission to probe the Moon’s mysterious volcanoes

NASA has authorized a mission to the Moon to investigate a new region. This is in an effort to help future lunar colonists understand the geological mysteries and to provide information that will aid them.

Lunar-VISE, a robotic rover mission costing $35 million, will launch in 2026. It will study the chemical compositions of the Gruithuisen Domes. These mysterious volcanic features are made of magma hardened rock.

Formations such as the Gruithuisen Dome on Earth, however, require oceans or plate tectonics. Neither of these are available to the Moon. It is possible that the domes formed and evolved in a way that could provide heat for long-term exploration of the Moon. NASA has never seen anything like the Gruithuisen Domes on the lunar surface.

The Gruithuisen Domes can be found in the western Mare Imbrium basin edge in the northwest of Moon, as seen from Earth. It looks like this:

Lunar-VISE will carry five scientific instruments: two on a stationary landing craft and three on a mobile rover. It will spend 10 days on the summit of one dome, analysing the lunar regolith, and exploring how dust interacts to the spacecraft and the rover.

Donaldson Hanna, principal investigator of LunarVISE at the University of Central Florida, stated that there is a potential treasure trove of knowledge still to be found. This will help us not only inform future robotic and human explorations of the Moon but also allow us to better understand the history of other planets in our solar system.

This mission was one of two that NASA’s Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon program (PRISM), made possible. This mission is part of NASA’s plans to encourage more commercial companies to send payloads to Moon ahead of its Artemis program, which will see two crewed missions to the Moon by 2024.

Lunar Explorer instrument for space biology Applications (LEIA science suite) will also be sent to the Moon. This small CubeSat-based mission will send a yeast sample to the surface of the Moon and study its reaction to radiation and lunar gravity. It will allow scientists to calculate how long-term lunar humans could be affected by deep space radiation and partial gravity.

I wish you clear skies, wide eyes and clear skies.

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