Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Our view of the Moon has turned upside down"

Ralf Jaumann, Head of the Planetary Geology
Department, DLR Institute of Planetary Research
Elisabeth Mittelbach

Interview with DLR's Ralf Jaumann

On 19 and 20 April, 170 international experts met to discuss present and future lunar research

The Moon continues to be a fascinating research objective for scientists from around the world. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research collaborated with NASA’s Lunar Science Institute to hold a two-day Lunar Symposium, which took place on 19 and 20 April 2012 at the Adlershof Forum in Berlin. 170 participants, primarily from Europe, the United States, Japan and Russia, exchanged the latest scientific insights gained about Earth’s natural satellite.

In a brief interview, Ralf Jaumann, Head of the Planetary Geology Department at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, tells us what this European summit meeting of Moon researchers was all about.

Why did DLR and four other partners convene this Lunar Symposium?

A great deal has occurred in the field of lunar research in the last three years. Since the two latest lunar missions, Chandrayaan-1, India’s first Moon mission in 2008, and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that launched in 2009, our view of the Moon has been turned upside down. Before these missions, we thought that Earth’s celestial companion was extremely dry, but now we are aware that it contains water. Even if it only exists in small amounts, this is quite sensational news. We have found water at the south pole, in what are known as ‘cold sinks’. These are very deep impact craters, into which light never penetrates, and which therefore never experience heating. Furthermore, water can arise on the surface of the Moon as a result of the reaction between hydrogen protons from solar wind and the oxygen in lunar rock. Indeed, thanks to modern research methods, we have also been able to discover water in the rock samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions. Consequently, the theory of a ‘dry Moon’ is no longer a tenable one, and it opens up new questions regarding the origin of our satellite. The Moon is particularly fascinating for me because it is the only celestial object that we are able to observe with the naked eye, and also because it has a direct influence in our life, for example through the monthly calendar and the ocean tides.

What were the objectives of this symposium?

Read the full, brief interview, HERE.

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