The Moon is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system, used by planetary scientists to decipher the most ancient history of our celestial neighborhood.
Wind, water, volcanic eruptions and movements of Earth's rocky crust erase evidence here of the solar system's earliest days. But the Moon preserves that history. Its records of rocky collisions and volcanic activity provide foundational data to estimate the ages and surface processes of early Earth, Mars, Europa and beyond.
Why it matters: New missions to the lunar surface would enable us to confirm hypotheses about the frequency and intensity of collisions in the early solar system, the activity of volcanoes on the Moon, and the origins of water and other volatile materials in its shadowed polar regions. Each of these questions has implications for how Earth, Mars, and other rocky planets formed, as well as whether and when environments conducive to life developed.
Another thing: Beyond science, access to the surface of the Moon would inspire the world to work together to expand our frontier of exploration farther into our solar system.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Clive Neal, lunar scientist and engineering professor at Notre Dame: Lunar resources ready and waiting
- Georgiana Kramer, staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute: Lunar swirls hold valuable secrets
- Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society: The moon is one step. Mars is the prize.