Blue sky on Moon? Not likely—but scientists re-examining old rocks brought from the Apollo missions now believe that our orbiting satellite may have once had a thick atmosphere.
The research, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, reveals that ancient volcanoes about four billion years ago may have created an atmosphere that lasted for about 70 million years before eventually fading away. The scientists from the Lunar and Planetary Institute found that the volcanic samples “carried gas components, such as carbon monoxide, the ingredients for water, sulfur, and other volatile species.”
Researchers used calculations to figure out how much gas rose from the volcano’s lava in order to form the atmosphere. They discovered the atmosphere was at its thickest somewhere between 3 to 4 billion years ago.
“This work dramatically changes our view of the Moon from an airless rocky body to one that used to be surrounded by an atmosphere more prevalent than that surrounding Mars today,” study author Dr. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute told Phys.org.
Kring’s findings, which came with help from NASA research scientist Dr. Debra Needham, may have important implications for future lunar missions. The research “quantifies a source of volatiles that may have been trapped from the atmosphere into cold, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles and, thus, may provide a source of ice suitable for a sustained lunar exploration program,” the statement explains.
On Thursday, the Trump administration spoke about the desire to send astronauts back to the moon.
“We will return American astronauts to the moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Vice President Mike Pence, during the first meeting with the National Space Council.
There’s no definitive plan of when this will happen, but it may be sooner than you think. At least one scientist believes that by 2030, some people will call the moon home.
“There may be the possibility to have children born on the Moon,” Bernard Foing, a scientist at the European Space Agency, said during a conference in September.