The Science case

Lunar Mission One will make a unique contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the origins of the Moon and the Earth.

You can read the academic paper laying out the scientific rationale for Lunar Mission One here.

The spacecraft platform will drill down to a depth of at least 20 metres – several times further than drilled before – though potentially as deep as 100 metres. This will enable us to access and analyse lunar rock that is 4.5 billion years old.

By studying this ancient lunar rock, and taking environmental measurements at the same time, we hope to shine some light on the following:

  • What are the origins of the Moon? Open or Close

    What are the origins of the Moon?

    Scientists currently believe that approximately 4.5 billion years ago the Earth collided with a planetary body the size of Mars. It is thought that the resulting debris from this catastrophic collision then came together to form the Moon. Studying rock from deep below the surface will, for the first time, allow us to understand more about the geological composition of the Moon, shedding further light on whether it truly shares its origins with the Earth.

  • How did the late heavy bombardment shape the history of our planet? Open or Close

    How did the late heavy bombardment shape the history of our planet?

    Around 500 million years after the formation of the Moon, scientists believe that the inner solar system (which includes the four planets closest to the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) experienced a period of heavy asteroid bombardment. Because our planet’s surface is constantly changing, effectively degrading geological evidence, it is difficult to study the extent or effect that this period of bombardment may have had on Earth. The Moon on the other hand does not generally experience such drastic geological change and it therefore holds invaluable information about these ancient asteroid impacts.

    By drilling deep below the Moon’s surface, we will be able to study impact sites, and draw conclusions about how this violent period in our solar system’s history may have affected our own planet, including the development of conditions that initiated life on Earth.

  • Might the Moon be suitable for a permanently manned base for space exploration? Open or Close

    Might the Moon be suitable for a permanently manned base for space exploration?

    As far back as the 1960s, scientists have been considering the possibility of a permanently manned lunar base. A lunar base would have several future benefits, including cheaper space exploration:  the Moon’s gravity is weaker than Earth’s, so fuelling and launching rockets from or near the Moon would require less energy than launching from Earth, making the process more economically efficient.

    The South Pole of the Moon has already been earmarked as a potential site for a lunar base because of its regular exposure to sunlight for solar power, stable temperature and the possible availability of water, hydrogen and other useful chemicals in nearby cold, permanently shadowed, craters.

    Like other areas of the Moon, the South Pole is also subject to dangerous solar particles and cosmic rays, and these our mission can measure to predict the shielding astronauts would need. That shielding could itself come from the lunar surface material we analyse.

    So, by drilling deep into the Moon’s surface and by measuring the surface environment, Lunar Mission One will be able to gather further valuable evidence as to the suitability of the South Pole for a future lunar base.

  • How can we use the Moon for astronomy? Open or Close

    How can we use the Moon for astronomy?

    Radio waves play an important part in our understanding of the cosmos. Unfortunately the Earth’s atmosphere prevents radio telescopes from detecting low frequencies. These frequencies can be important, for example in understanding further the formation of the universe at the Big Bang. The Moon has no atmosphere and its far side is shielded from radio interference from Earth. Lunar Mission One will carry an experiment to forecast the suitability of a low frequency radio receiver beyond the lunar South Pole following the initial mission.

    In addition, being much further from the Earth than orbiting satellites, Lunar Mission One could provide a better picture of the Earth’s vicinity, such as the surrounding magnetic field that protects us all from harmful radiation from the Sun.