Whatever NASA found out about the moon, the agency said it would step up its “efforts” to learn about the moon in support of space exploration. The discovery was reportedly made using the Stratospheric Infrared Astronomy Observatory (SOFIA), a Boeing 747SP aircraft equipped with a massive telescope that can be flown into the stratosphere to observe space. According to NASA’s announcement, the discovery also relates to the recently announced Artemis program that will send two astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024.
“Understanding the science of the moon also helps summarize the broader history of the inner solar system,” the announcement said.
The conference call will be broadcast live on NASA’s website, apparently only in audio format. It will include comments from Paul Hertz – director of the astrophysics division at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC; Jacob Bleacher – Senior Exploration Scientist, Directorate of Human Exploration and Operations Missions at NASA Headquarters; Casey Honniball – postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Naseem Rangwala – project scientist for the SOFIA mission in California’s Silicon Valley.
As for the revelation itself, the content of the press conference is everyone’s business. Some online users are trying to speculate what the 9-foot telescope might have learned from SOFIA by flying over 99 percent of the water vapor that normally obscures the view in space. The telescope also observes in infrared wavelengths and can thus recognize phenomena that cannot be seen in visible light.
NASA plans to send the first woman to the moon with the Artemis program in 2024, as announced earlier this year. The agency hopes this will be a stepping stone to a manned mission to Mars, perhaps as early as the 2030s.
The upcoming Artemis mission aims to demonstrate the capabilities of new technologies that have advanced well since the end of the lunar journey. Understanding these technologies will be vital to any upcoming mission to Mars, as will an established presence on the moon. NASA claims that it intends to maintain a strategic presence there for future launches.
For the latest from NASA and its mysterious lunar discovery, visit the agency’s website on Monday, October 26th at 12:00 PM CET.
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