Sunday, February 1, 2009

NLSI picks Goddard to study the Dynamic Moon

NASA's Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) has selected a proposal submitter by NASA Goddard to investigate the influence of the Sun on the Moon. The wide-ranging effects of Solar Wind and its surface interaction with the dusty lunar surface was identified as essential research, by the National Academies of Science's Space Studies Board in 2007, before extended human activity on the Moon can begin.

The award, one of seven announced by NASA, devotes $5 million over four years beginning in April. Researchers will build advanced simulations to explore the interaction between the Sun and Moon, emphasizing surface interactions during solar particle events (SPEs) such as intense flares and Coronal Mass Ejections. The study will also investigate spellation along with both primary and secondary high energy Galactic Cosmic Ray impacts and those of micrometeorites.

"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. William Farrell of NASA Goddard, Principal Investigator for the proposal, called the Dynamic Response of the Environment at the Moon (DREAM).

"One of our roles will be to provide modeling support to scientists examining data from NASA's lunar science missions, such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). There are always surprises in science, and our computer models can help them understand unexpected results or choose among competing theories," said Farrell.

"The sun is constantly throwing energy and matter into space – radiation and a million-mile-per-hour stream of electrically charged particles called the solar wind. If you put an object in the path of this stuff, such as the moon, that object will get hit and react. This reaction to inflowing solar matter includes surface erosion of gas and dust. There are also other subtle reactions, like the electrostatic charging of the lunar surface and any object on the surface that can be a concern for human explorers. All these effects are enhanced during a solar storm when the sun temporarily spews out a greater amount of energy and matter," said Farrell.

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.

Read the Goddard Press Release HERE.

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