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The idea of harvesting a clean and efficient form of energy from the Moon has stimulated science fiction and fact in recent decades. Unlike Earth, which is protected by its magnetic field, the Moon has been bombarded with large quantities of Helium-3 by the solar wind. It is thought that this isotope could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products. The Apollo programme's own geologist, Harrison Schmidt, has repeatedly made the argument for Helium-3 mining, whilst Gerald Kulcinski at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is another leading proponent.

He has created a small reactor at the Fusion Technology Institute, but so far it has not been possible to create the helium fusion reaction with a net power output. This has not stopped the search for Helium-3 from being a motivating factor in space exploration, however.

Apart from the traditional space-faring nations, the India has previously indicated its interest in mining the lunar surface. But Orion could dock with a stripped-down version, consisting of a power and propulsion module and a small habitat for crew. The outpost remains controversial.

Dr Robert Zubrin, author of the book The Case for Space, sees it as an unnecessary stop on the way to the Moon, and refers to it as a lunar orbit tollbooth. But the plan calls for an initial landing in and a sustainable programme by — first to the Moon and then to Mars.

It was arguably the defining event of the century. For reasons unknown, the LM was veering off course, four miles downrange of the intended landing site. During the final 2, feet m of the automatic descent, Armstrong looked out the window and saw the LM was heading for a large crater surrounded by boulders as big as cars.

Landing here would have been catastrophic. As the LM approached the foot m mark, Armstrong assumed manual control of the spindly craft and flew it like a helicopter. He piloted the LM over the crater and the boulders, landing safely on a flat plain. Landing at the South Pole of the Moon will be a thrilling spectacle.

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When astronauts venture outside, they might be wearing spacesuits like the Z-2 prototype. Lifting off from the Moon could be challenging. The lander, which for hasn't been built, perhaps sums up better than any element the anxiety felt around the accelerated timeline. But Robert Zubrin argues that five-and-a-half years is enough time to build and test the lander. It's not all about landing on the Moon, some people are already getting ready for a lunar economy. Space company Astrobotic says it's building a "railroad" to the Moon.

It's one of a number of companies that want to transport items to the lunar surface. The railroad metaphor seems particularly apt for a company with its headquarters in the former heart of American steel manufacturing, Pittsburgh. By providing end-to-end delivery services for private customers and Nasa, companies like Astrobotic could make the first steps towards building a sustainable lunar economy. Tourism is likely to be another early lunar revenue source. Further into the future, tourists could land on the lunar surface and stay in habitats.

But mining water-ice for rocket fuel is likely to be the foundation of a lunar economy. These deposits are concentrated at the North and South Poles, where the interiors of some craters never see sunlight. Never exposed to enough heating to boil them away, deposits of water-ice — perhaps billions of tonnes — persist in these shadowed craters. Re-fuelling vehicles at the Moon could bring down the cost of space travel and make a lunar outpost more affordable. Lunar propellant could also be used to boost satellites from low-Earth orbit LEO to a higher, geostationary orbit.

A spacecraft carrying fuel from the Moon could rendezvous with a satellite in LEO and use the propellant to push it to its final orbit. The Artemis plan culminates with the deployment in of a Lunar Surface Asset - in other words, a base. In the early stages of settling the Moon, inflatable modules made from multiple layers of fabric might be the best option.

They can be collapsed, taking up less space in a rocket than rigid modules, and provide more living space when expanded. Their habitat consists of an inflatable, two-storey living space and a rigid module acting as an airlock. To protect these habitats against micrometeoroid strikes and radiation, robots could 3D-print hard outer shells that could sit over the habitats. This would give them a ready-made shelter from radiation.

A prototype lunar greenhouse has already been developed at a University of Arizona facility in Tucson. Vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and sweet potato are grown under LED lights. The plants contribute to life support systems because they scrub carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. Before water can be extracted, there will be some prospecting to do. Once promising deposits have been identified, robots could be used to dig them up. Philip Metzger thinks you could just heat the lunar soil so that the water is released as a vapour, so it can then be collected.

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Power will be an issue in permanently shadowed craters. One way to get it in is by concentrating sunlight using mirrors mounted on a crater rim. Most of the water from mining would then be turned into rocket fuel using an electric current to split the water molecules into their constituents, hydrogen and oxygen. Hannah Sargeant from the Open University is working on an instrument called ProSPA that aims to demonstrate water extraction from rocks on the lunar surface. This kind of demonstration is vital.

Why the South Pole?

But deploying it and testing, I think, is the next critical step for this to happen. Fifty years on, the Moon landings remain a powerful symbol of what can be achieved when we mobilise our talents and resources to inspire. The surrounding crust is estimated to be 50 km 31 mi thick on average, and is also composed of igneous rock.

The Moon is the second densest satellite in the Solar System after Io.

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The presence of water has also been confirmed on the Moon, the majority of which is located at the poles in permanently-shadowed craters, and possibly also in reservoirs located beneath the lunar surface. The geology of the Moon aka. Since the Moon lacks a significant atmosphere, it does not experience weather — hence there is no wind erosion. Similarly, since it lacks liquid water, there is also no erosion caused by flowing water on its surface.

Because of its small size and lower gravity, the Moon cooled more rapidly after forming, and does not experience tectonic plate activity. Instead, the complex geomorphology of the lunar surface is caused by a combination of processes, particularly impact cratering and volcanoes. Together, these forces have created a lunar landscape that is characterized by impact craters, their ejecta, volcanoes, lava flows, highlands, depressions, wrinkle ridges and grabens.

The most distinctive aspect of the Moon is the contrast between its bright and dark zones.

The highlands are made of igneous rock that is predominately composed of feldspar, but also contains trace amounts of magnesium, iron, pyroxene, ilmenite, magnetite, and olivine. Mare regions, in contrast, are formed from basalt i. The highlands are older than the visible maria, and hence are more heavily cratered. Other features include rilles, which are long, narrow depressions that resemble channels.

These generally fall into one of three categories: sinuous rilles, which follow meandering paths; arcuate rilles, which have a smooth curve; and linear rilles, which follow straight paths. These features are often the result of the formation of localized lava tubes that have since cooled and collapsed, and can be traced back to their source old volcanic vents or lunar domes.


Lunar domes are another feature that is related to volcanic activity. When relatively viscous, possibly silica-rich lava erupts from local vents, it forms shield volcanoes that are referred to as lunar domes. These wide, rounded, circular features have gentle slopes, typically measure km in diameter and rise to an elevation of a few hundred meters at their midpoint.

The Moon, Cardiff

Wrinkle ridges are features created by compressive tectonic forces within the maria. These features represent buckling of the surface and form long ridges across parts of the maria. Grabens are tectonic features that form under extension stresses and which are structurally composed of two normal faults, with a down-dropped block between them.

Most grabens are found within the lunar maria near the edges of large impact basins. The kinetic energy of the impact creates a compression shock wave that creates a depression, followed by a rarefaction wave that propels most of the ejecta out of the crater, and then a rebounds to form a central peak. In general, the lunar history of impact cratering follows a trend of decreasing crater size with time. In particular, the largest impact basins were formed during the early periods, and these were successively overlaid by smaller craters.

Some of these are named for scholars, scientists, artists and explorers. The lack of an atmosphere, weather and recent geological processes mean that many of these craters are well-preserved. Another feature of the lunar surface is the presence of regolith aka. Moon dust, lunar soil. Created by billions of years of collisions by asteroids and comets, this fine grain of crystallized dust covers much of the lunar surface.

The regolith contains rocks, fragments of minerals from the original bedrock, and glassy particles formed during the impacts. The chemical composition of the regolith varies according to its location. Whereas the regolith in the highlands is rich in aluminum and silica, the regolith in the maria is rich in iron and magnesium and is silica-poor, as are the basaltic rocks from which it is formed. Geological studies of the Moon are based on a combination of Earth-based telescope observations, measurements from orbiting spacecraft, lunar samples, and geophysical data.

Much like Mercury , the Moon has a tenuous atmosphere known as an exosphere , which results in severe temperature variations. There is also evidence of frozen water existing in permanently shadowed craters, and potentially below the soil itself.

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The water may have been blown in by the solar wind or deposited by comets. Several theories have been proposed for the formation of the Moon. The estimated age of the Moon also ranges from it being formed 4.