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The lunar surface as a recorder of astrophysical processes

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The lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years and during this time has accumulated records of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena. These include solar wind particles and the cosmogenic products of solar particle events which preserve a record of the past evolution of the Sun, and cosmogenic nuclides produced by high-energy galactic cosmic rays which potentially record the galactic environment of the Solar System through time. The lunar surface may also have accreted material from the local interstellar medium, including supernova ejecta and material from interstellar clouds encountered by the Solar System in the past. Owing to the Moon's relatively low level of geological activity, absence of an atmosphere, and, for much of its history, lack of a magnetic field, the lunar surface is ideally suited to collect these astronomical records. Moreover, the Moon exhibits geological processes able to bury and thus both preserve and ‘time-stamp' these records, although gaining access to them is likely to require a significant scientific infrastructure on the lunar surface. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Astronomy from the Moon: the next decades'.
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The lunar surface as a recorder of astrophysical processes
1
Ian A. Crawforda,b, Katherine H. Joyc, Jan H. Pasckertd, Harald Hiesingerd
aDepartment of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet
Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK. Orchid ID: 0000-0001-5661-7403
bCentre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
cDepartment of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Oxford
Road, M13 9PL, Manchester, UK. Orchid ID: 0000-0003-4992-8750
dInstitut für Planetologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Wilhelm-Klemm-Str. 10, 48149
Münster, Germany. Orchid IDs: 0000-0002-1338-5638, 0000-0001-7688-1965
Keywords: Moon, lunar exploration, lunar regolith, solar wind, cosmic rays, supernovae
Summary
The lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years and during this time has
accumulated records of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena. These include solar wind particles and the
cosmogenic products of solar particle events which preserve a record of the past evolution of the Sun, and
cosmogenic nuclides produced by high-energy galactic cosmic rays which potentially record the galactic
environment of the Solar System through time. The lunar surface may also have accreted material from the local
interstellar medium, including supernova ejecta and material from interstellar clouds encountered by the Solar
System in the past. Owing to the Moon’s relatively low level of geological activity, absence of an atmosphere,
and, for much of its history, lack of a magnetic field, the lunar surface is ideally suited to collect these
astronomical records. Moreover, the Moon exhibits geological processes able to bury and thus both preserve
and ‘time-stamp’ these records, although gaining access to them is likely to require a significant scientific
infrastructure on the lunar surface.
1. Introduction
There are multiple scientific reasons for wishing to resume the robotic and human exploration of the lunar
surface, ranging from lunar geology to astrobiology (for reviews see [1-4]). Other papers in this volume are
mostly concerned with the potential of the lunar surface as a platform for astronomical observations of various
kinds, whereas in this contribution we argue that the lunar surface itself will have recorded much of
astrophysical interest. In this sense, the Moon itself can be viewed as a giant ‘telescope’ which has been
observing and recording astrophysical processes ever since it first developed a solid surface some 4.5 billion
years ago.
1
Accepted manuscript, as published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A379: 20190562 (2020):
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsta.2019.0562
Several factors combine to make the lunar surface an ideal, and perhaps unique, recorder of a wide range of
astrophysical processes throughout Solar System history. Primarily, this is because the lunar surface,
unprotected by an atmosphere or, for much of its history, a magnetic field, has been directly exposed to the
space environment for most of the last 4.5 Gyr. As a consequence, particles and radiation from space have
impacted the lunar surface unimpeded, leaving evidence of their presence in the rocks and soils of the lunar
regolith. Examples include solar wind particles and cosmogenic products of solar energetic particle events, and
thus a record of the past evolution of the Sun, and cosmogenic nuclides produced by galactic cosmic rays, and
therefore a record of the past galactic environment of the Solar System. The lunar surface may also have accreted
material from the local interstellar medium, including supernova ejecta and material from interstellar clouds
encountered by the Solar System in its journey around the Galaxy. Equally as important as the collection of
these astrophysical records, however, are lunar geological processes which facilitate their long-term
preservation. As a relatively low-mass planetary body, whose own internal geological processes largely ceased
billions of years ago, the Moon has preserved an ancient surface with some sampled crustal rocks dating from
4.3-4.4 Gyr [4]. Crucially, and unlike the possibly equally ancient surfaces of some asteroids, for most of its
history the Moon has been sufficiently geologically active to bury, preserve, and ‘time-stamp’ ancient
astrophysical records in near-surface rocks and soils. Key processes include the covering of old surfaces by lava
flows, pyroclastic deposits and impact crater ejecta blankets, and ancient records preserved by these processes
may be recoverable by future space missions [1,5].
2. Lunar records of solar activity
Our knowledge of the past evolution of the Sun comes mainly from theoretical modelling (e.g. [6,7]) and
observations of other solar-type stars having a range of ages (e.g. [8,9]). These studies indicate that, whereas the
overall solar luminosity was probably only ~70% of its present value when the Sun formed, its faster rotation
would have resulted in greatly enhanced magnetic activity and associated solar wind and UV and X-ray
emission. Thus, we expect the luminosity of the Sun to have increased, and the strength of the solar wind and
high-energy photon and particle emission to have decreased, throughout Solar System history. Both of these
effects will have had implications for the habitability of the terrestrial planets and, in particular, for the
environment within which life originated and evolved on Earth [10]. In addition, the decrease in solar magnetic
activity has likely resulted in a corresponding increase in the galactic cosmic ray (GCR) flux in the inner Solar
System owing to the shrinkage of the heliosphere [11], which may also have had consequences for biological
evolution on Earth.
Although generally accepted, the low total luminosity of the Sun in its early history is difficult to understand
given the evidence for liquid water on the surfaces of early Earth and Mars (i.e. the ‘faint-young-Sun’ paradox
[12]). Most proposed explanations invoke enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmospheres of these
planets, although difficulties remain with these models [13]. One suggested alternative explanation is that the
Sun may have been more massive, and thus more luminous, in the past, but that it lost several percent of its
initial mass in strong solar winds early in its history [14,15]. Observations of limited mass-loss from young solar-
type stars have cast doubt on this proposal [16], but direct measurements of the strength of the solar wind
through time could in principle settle the issue. In any case, it is clear that obtaining direct observational
evidence of solar activity through time would not only provide important insights into the evolution of the Sun
as a star, but also improve our understanding of the evolution of the atmospheres, surface environments and
habitability of the terrestrial planets. Here we argue that the near-surface environment of the Moon has the
potential to provide this valuable information.
The Sun is an emitter of both low and high energy particles which may potentially yield information about solar
processes and evolution. Solar wind particles (electrons and protons, alpha particles, and trace heavy ions with
energies up to ~10 MeV) are emitted constantly from the Sun's corona, varying in intensity with solar activity.
Higher energy (~10 to 103 MeV) particles, often referred to as solar cosmic rays (SCRs) or solar energetic particles
(SEPs), are episodically emitted during solar flares and coronal mass ejection events and are able to produce a
range of cosmogenic nuclides when they impact planetary surfaces (e.g. [17-19]).
Analyses of samples returned by the Apollo and Luna missions have revealed that the lunar regolith is an
efficient collector of solar wind particles and cosmogenic nuclides produced by SCRs [5,17,20], and that it
therefore potentially contains a record of past solar activity (e.g. [21-24]). In this context, determining the time
dependence of both the flux and composition of the solar wind would be of interest. Whereas the overall solar
wind flux is probably the most direct indicator of solar activity, in practice the surfaces of regolith particles can
become saturated with solar wind [25], and the solar wind concentration retained in the regolith is influenced
by each individual grain's exposure history [e.g. 25-29].These factors may make regolith particles insensitive to
recording bulk temporal flux variations. However, there is evidence that changes in solar activity also affect the
relative abundances of ions in the solar wind owing to differential ionisation in the solar wind source regions
[30], potentially making the composition of the solar wind a proxy for solar activity. In addition, early solar
activity, and especially the frequency of coronal mass ejection events, may have been responsible for the
wholesale depletion of moderately volatile elements such as Na and K in the surficial regolith, which may also
detectable in lunar samples [31].
The implantation depths of solar wind ions into regolith particles depend on the irradiation energy, the mass of
the irradiating particles, and the composition (chemistry and mineral lattice structure) of the target material (e.g.
[32,33]). To access these records, research has focused on determination of the light element (H, C, O, N) and
noble gas isotope (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe) budgets of small rock fragments or individual mineral grains (e.g.
[25,34,35]), and analysis of depth-dependent concentrations of these elements within the grains (e.g. [36])
utilising noble gas acid-step leaching techniques (e.g. [37]) and secondary ion microprobe analyses (e.g. [38]).
However, all these efforts are constrained by the nature of the existing lunar sample collection. Of necessity,
samples collected by the Apollo and Luna missions (see [39] for a review) were obtained from the present-day
surface of the Moon and most have had a very long, but generally indeterminate, exposure to the solar wind.
Moreover, unless they have been deeply buried and recently exhumed, surface samples are unlikely to have
sampled the most ancient (i.e. several Gyr-old) solar wind that is of greatest interest in investigating early solar
evolution, although progress may be made by studying solar wind trapped in ancient regolith breccias dating
from that time [40]. Similar considerations apply to inferring past solar activity from cosmogenic nuclides
produced by SCRs (e.g. [17,41]).
A key requirement for further progress would be to obtain independent information on the absolute ages of
both the start and end times of solar wind and SCR exposure for a range of samples exposed to the space
environment at widely different times in the past. Fortunately, just such 'time-stamped' samples likely exist on
the Moon in the form of ancient regoliths (hereinafter 'palaeoregoliths') that were exposed to the solar wind and
SCRs at discrete times in the past and then covered up, and thus preserved, by later geological processes.
Obtaining such samples would greatly help in reconstructing a record of solar activity through time (although
the individual grain exposure histories within sampled palaeoregolith deposits will still need to be considered).
Before leaving this discussion of lunar records of past solar activity, we draw attention to the possibility that the
vertical temperature profile in the uppermost few metres of the lunar regolith may record the history of the
solar irradiance over the last several centuries [42]. Such measurements have been applied to reconstructing
terrestrial surface temperature changes over similar timescales [43], but implementation on the Moon would
yield a measure of solar irradiance variations free of the complexities introduced by Earth's atmosphere and
climate. Building on results from the Apollo heat flow experiments, Miyahara et al. [42] calculated that a
temperature measurement precision of ~0.01°C over a depth range of ~10 m would be able to distinguish
between different models of the total solar irradiance back to the Maunder Minimum in the mid- to late-
seventeenth century. In addition to providing information on very recent solar activity, such measurements
may be helpful in understanding the historical evolution of Earth’s climate system. Obtaining them will require
the drilling of multiple boreholes to ~10 m depth (i.e. five times the depths of the Apollo heat-flow
measurements of ~2 m).
3. Lunar records of galactic processes
As the Solar System has been orbiting the Galaxy for the last 4.6 Gyr it will have experienced a wide range of
different galactic environments. The recent review of galactic rotation constants provided by Vallée [44] implies
that the Sun traverses the entire spiral pattern of the Galaxy every ~720 to 1760 Myr (where the uncertainty
arises from continuing uncertainties in the angular velocity of the spiral arms). As the Galaxy appears to have
four major spiral arms [45], this implies spiral arm passages every ~180 to 440 Myr, during which periods the
Solar System may have experienced a range of interesting astrophysical phenomena including nearby
supernova (SN) explosions and transits through dense interstellar clouds. Reconstructing this history would
provide astronomically valuable information on the structure and evolution of the Galaxy, as well as
astrobiologically important information relevant for understanding the past habitability of our own planet [46-
49]. Previous attempts to find correlations between spiral arm crossings and Earth’s climate and extinction
records have been controversial and ambiguous (e.g. [47]), in part be due to a lack of reliable geological records
of the Solar System’s astrophysical environment.
As reviewed in earlier publications [50,51], the lunar surface is likely to be a much better repository of this
information for the same reasons that it will have preserved a record of ancient solar activity i.e., it has been
constantly exposed to the space environment throughout Solar System history, while also manifesting
geological processes able to preserve records of this exposure. There are at least three forms that such records
might take:
Variations in the Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) flux, as recorded in the abundances of cosmogenic nuclides
and/or radiation damage preserved in lunar surface rocks and soils
Direct accretion of interstellar matter and/or supernova ejecta onto the lunar surface
Variations in the lunar cratering rate driven by gravitational perturbations of the orbits of comets
and/or asteroids by changes in the galactic gravitational environment.
(a) Recording variations in GCR Flux
Several galactic processes affect the GCR flux in the inner Solar System, operating on a range of timescales [52-
54]. On the longest timescales (>1 Gyr), the average GCR flux may reflect the galactic star formation rate, which
could provide useful constraints on models of galactic evolution (although it would be necessary to account for
an expected secular increase in GCR flux reaching the inner Solar System due to decreasing solar activity [11]).
On timescales of the order of a few 100 Myr, the GCR flux is likely to be moderated by an enhanced supernova
(SN) rate, and/or collapses of the heliosphere owing to encounters with dense interstellar clouds, associated
with the Sun passing through galactic spiral arms [55-57]. On still shorter timescales (tens of Myr), additional
variations in the GCR flux may be expected owing to the oscillation of the Sun about the plane of the Galaxy
(with a period of ~64 Myr and amplitude ~70 parsecs [57]), and possible short-term variations in the size of the
heliosphere owing to fluctuations in the local interstellar medium density [11]. Stochastic events, such as nearby
(say, 50 parsecs) SN explosions, may be superimposed on these secular and quasi-periodic galactic influences.
For example, Melott et al. [58] have considered the GCR flux at the Earth due to a SN at distance of 50 parsecs
and find that the GCR flux could be elevated by between one and three orders of magnitude above its current
value for several thousand years (see figure 1 in ref. [58]).
There are at least two ways in which evidence for GCR variations might be recovered from exposed Solar System
samples. Firstly, the high energy GCR particles leave tracks of radiation damage in exposed materials, the
density of which is proportional to the GCR flux and exposure duration ([5,22,59]). Secondly, when GCRs
interact with atomic nuclei in geological materials a variety of cosmogenic nuclides (e.g. 3He, 10Be, 21Ne, 36Cl,
38Ar) are produced as a result of spallation and neutron capture reactions (e.g. [60]). Typically, these interactions
occur within the uppermost metre or so of the exposed surface (e.g. [5,61]). Results of searches for GCR
variations based on meteorite samples have proved to be controversial and inconclusive (e.g. [62,63]), in part
because they only record an integrated GCR flux since becoming exposed to the space environment. As Wieler
et al. [62] note “because of the limited sensitivity of the time-integrated GCR signals provided by meteorites, it
is wise to consider ... also the differential GCR flux signals provided by terrestrial sediment samples.” Because
terrestrial samples can be dated independently of the cosmic ray flux, this is a potentially powerful approach,
but is limited by the relatively recent ages of terrestrial sedimentary samples, the complexity of Earth’s
geological and erosional history, and by the fact that the primary GCR flux is attenuated by the Earth’s
atmosphere and magnetic field. It is here that the lunar geological record may be able to help.
Several cosmogenic nuclides have been measured in lunar samples (e.g. [22,29,33,64]), and in principle the GCR
flux could be inferred by measuring the density of cosmic ray tracks and/or the concentrations of cosmogenic
nuclides in exposed lunar materials. In practice there are a number of complications, especially the generally
unknown exposure and shielding histories (i.e. burial depths) of existing lunar samples. These uncertainties
would be mitigated if the start and end times of the exposure of a given lunar sample, together with its burial
history, could be determined independently. This will likely be key to reconstructing GCR records from which
the changing galactic environment of the Solar System might be inferred. As for the solar wind history, the
recovery of GCR records from buried palaeoregolith layers would be one possibility, although unlike the solar
wind case the development of a surficial regolith may not be required to preserve GCR records because they
will also occur at ~ metre depths within crystalline rocks.
We note in passing that a nearby SN explosion would also produce an enhancement in the neutrino flux, which
in principle might be detected by damage tracks produced in mineral lattices by nuclei recoiling from a neutrino
interaction. It has been proposed to search for such signals in terrestrial rock samples [65], but lunar samples
would provide a longer temporal baseline and avoid the neutrino background produced in Earth’s atmosphere.
2
(b) Recording the direct accretion of interstellar matter
In its journey around the Galaxy, the Solar System will have been exposed to a range of different interstellar
medium densities. As reviewed elsewhere ([66] and references cited therein), at present the Solar System
appears to be located close to the boundary of a low density (nH ~ 0.1-0.2 cm-3, where nH is the density of
hydrogen nuclei) interstellar cloud (the ‘Local Interstellar Cloud’, LIC), which is itself located in the even lower
density (nH ~ 0.005 cm-3) and ~100 parsec radius Local Bubble within the Local (‘Orion’) Arm of the Galaxy. As
noted by Cohen et al. [11], even small changes in the extent of the heliosphere caused by the Solar System
moving in and out of low-density clouds like the LIC may have produced variations in the inner Solar System
GCR flux on Myr timescales. On longer timescales, and especially during spiral arm passages, much denser
interstellar environments are likely to be encountered, possibly resulting in the direct accretion of interstellar
gas and dust onto the atmospheres and surfaces of the terrestrial planets [67-70].
In their study of the interaction of the Solar System with interstellar clouds, Yeghikyan & Fahr [68] found that
for interstellar densities of nH 1000 cm-3 the size of the heliosphere would shrink to less than one astronomical
unit, leaving the Earth (and the Moon) directly exposed to interstellar material. The frequency with which the
Solar System encounters such dense interstellar clouds is uncertain, with estimates varying between ~300 Myr
and 3 Gyr [68,70-72]. For both astronomical and astrobiological reasons it would be desirable to reduce this
uncertainty, and to determine whether or not encounters with dense interstellar clouds have influenced life on
Earth. Pavlov et al. [67] calculated that if it took 200,000 years to cross a cloud with nH ~1000 cm-3 then ~1 kg m-
2 of interstellar dust would be deposited on exposed planetary surfaces, where it might be identified by
distinctive chemical and isotopic signatures. Given the likely ages and relatively short durations of interstellar
cloud encounters, the ancient and relatively undisturbed surface of the Moon appears far more likely to retain
a record of such events than the dynamic surface of the Earth, especially if they have been preserved within
independently dateable palaeoregolith deposits.
In addition to collecting interstellar dust, it is also possible that airless surfaces such as that of the Moon will
provide a record of the gaseous component of interstellar clouds through which the Solar System has passed.
One possibility would be interstellar pick-up ions, ionized and accelerated within the heliosphere and then
implanted into the surfaces of lunar regolith grains [73]. In addition, now that there is abundant evidence for
volatiles trapped in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) at the lunar poles [74], where temperatures are
typically of the order of 40 K [75], it may be worth considering whether directly accreted interstellar gas
penetrating the inner heliosphere during interstellar cloud traverses could have become cold-trapped onto PSR
surfaces; this might be a fruitful topic for future investigation.
2
We thank Joe Silk for this observation.
As reviewed elsewhere [51], another component of interstellar material that might be identified on the lunar
surface would be ejecta from nearby SN explosions. There has been a long-standing recognition that SN
occurring within a few tens of parsecs, and perhaps as distant as 100 parsecs, may deposit debris enriched in
radioactive elements within the Solar System (e.g. [76-79), and evidence for two such events, in the age ranges
of ~2 and ~8 Myr, has been reported from 60Fe deposition in ocean sediments [80-82]. Cook et al. [83] argued
that the lunar surface has some advantages as a collector of SN ejecta as the much slower rate of surface re-
working would allow it to accumulate in more concentrated layers than on Earth, and in 2016 this group [84]
identified 60Fe enhancements in Apollo 12, 15 and 16 soil samples (collected from depths few cm) consistent
with the ~2 Myr-old SN event recognized in Earth ocean sediments. However, where the lunar record is likely
to come into its own is in identifying debris from much older SN events than are likely to be preserved by Earth's
dynamic surface environment. It is true that this will be complicated by the short half-lives (T1/2 a few Myr) of
radioisotopes likely to be present in SN ejecta (see table 1 of Fry et al. [79] for a summary), but two such isotopes,
146Sm (T1/2 = 100 Myr) and 244Pu (T1/2=80 My), are sufficiently long-lived to have recorded one or more spiral arm
passages. In addition, careful analysis of the decay products of once-live isotopes in SN ejecta (e.g. 26Al, 53Mn,
60Fe, 41Ca) might also reveal the signatures of ancient SN events. We also note that Siraj and Loeb [85] have
recently suggested that SN-accelerated dust grains might leave detectable tracks in mineral surfaces exposed at
the lunar surface. Any such detections of SN ejecta would be expected to correlate with evidence for enhanced
GCR (and neutrino) fluxes, so these different lines of evidence for ancient SN events would be mutually
supportive.
Finally, we briefly mention an even more exotic possibility: recently it has been proposed that geological
materials may record interactions with some candidates for dark matter particles [86] and, should the Solar
System have encountered variations in the density of such particles in its orbit around the Galaxy, the long-
lived lunar geological record would appear ideally suited to recording them.
(c) Recording variations in impact cratering rate
The third category of lunar geological records with the potential to provide insights into galactic processes
concerns the changing gravitational environment of the Solar System. It has long been speculated that the
changing gravitational potential as the Solar System oscillates above and below the galactic plane, and passes
through galactic spiral arms, may perturb the orbits of comets in the Oort Cloud and increase the impact
cratering rate in the inner Solar System (e.g. [46,49,55,87-89]). Identifying possible periodicities and/or episodic
spikes in the impact cratering rate, which might then be correlated with the Solar System’s galactic environment,
is problematical primarily because the terrestrial impact record is so sparse [90]. In contrast, the lunar surface
holds an essentially complete impact record for most of Solar System history [91]. It follows that, by obtaining
and dating samples of impact melt from a sufficiently large number (possibly hundreds) of lunar craters, it
ought to be possible to determine unambiguously whether or not temporal variations in the impact flux have
occurred and are correlated with galactic structure (although if most of the impactors were from the asteroid
belt rather than from comets [92] any galactic signal might be muted). Note that we would expect any galactic
periodicity in cratering rate to be correlated with the GCR flux, which is also recorded on the Moon. Obtaining
such a complete impact record for the Moon would also have many other benefits for planetary science,
including refining the inner Solar System impact cratering chronology and constraining models of the
dynamical evolution of planetary orbits (e.g. [4] and references cited therein).
4. Preserving the record
The Moon will only record a history of past astrophysical processes if evidence for them has reached the surface
and then been preserved by lunar geological processes. Before turning to the means of preservation, it is
important to consider whether the lunar surface has always been as open to external influences as it is today.
There are at least two aspects to consider: the ancient lunar magnetic field, and a possible early atmosphere.
Palaeomagnetic studies of Apollo samples suggest that between ~4.2 and ~3.6 Gyr ago the Moon had a core-
generated magnetic field comparably strong to the Earth’s present-day magnetic field (i.e. several tens of µT),
which then declined by at least an order of magnitude prior to 3.2 Gyr ago [93]; it may have persisted at this
reduced level (~5 µT) until about 2.5 Gyr ago, finally ceasing (<0.1 µT) sometime before ~1 Gr ago [94]. As a
consequence, at least during the early part of this time period, the Moon’s surface would have been partially
shielded from the solar wind, so this would need to be taken into account in interpreting the most ancient solar
wind records; possibly samples collected close to palaeomagnetic poles, where the magnetic field lines would
tend to channel charged particles to the surface, would be preferred for such studies. On the other hand, high-
energy GCRs, and uncharged particulate material (e.g. SN ejecta and interstellar dust particles) would not be
expected to be significantly affected by an early lunar magnetic field. The presence of an ancient lunar
atmosphere would potentially impede a wider range of exogenous material from reaching the surface, including
some fraction of the primary GCRs. Given the Moon’s low gravity, its only realistic opportunity to accumulate
an atmosphere would be during periods of intense volcanic activity when the rate of magmatic degassing might
transiently exceed the rate of atmospheric loss. Based on these arguments, Needham and Kring [95] estimated
that a transient lunar atmosphere having a surface pressure of up to ~9 mbar (i.e. 1.5 times higher than the
current atmospheric pressure on Mars) might have persisted for ~70 million years at the peak of mare volcanism.
On the other hand, Wilson et al. [96] have argued that the intervals between individual mare eruptions (~20,000
to 60,000 years) would have been too long for such a transient atmosphere to accumulate. In any case, it appears
that any ancient lunar atmosphere would only have affected the accumulation of astronomical records on the
Moon’s surface for geologically brief periods ~3.5 Gy ago.
Assuming that they reach the lunar surface unimpeded, the various astronomical records discussed in this paper
will only have survived in detectable quantities if geological processes have acted to preserved them. This is
especially true of material deposited directly onto the surficial regolith (e.g. solar wind particles, interstellar
pick-up ions, and accreted interstellar material) because otherwise these records will be disturbed and diluted
by the continuous comminution and overturning (“gardening”) of the regolith by the unremitting impact of
small meteoroids [20]. Owing to the deeper (order metre) penetration depths of GCRs, the record of cosmogenic
nuclide formation, required to reconstruct variations in the GCR flux, is probably less sensitive to surficial
regolith processing, but any record dating back hundreds of millions of years will still need to be protected from
the disturbing effects of larger meteorite impacts. To illustrate this point, consider the solar wind and
cosmogenic nuclei extracted from surface regolith samples collected by the Apollo missions. Solar wind and
cosmogenic noble gases have been extracted from regolith samples collected at all six landing sites (see [33] for
a recent review). However, these regoliths have mostly been developed on surfaces with ages exceeding 3 Gyr
(e.g. [97]) so any evidence for temporal variations within them will have been smeared out by impact-induced
gardening during these vast spans of time. Some exceptions are provided by samples collected on the ejecta
blankets of young impact craters, such as South Ray crater (Apollo 16; estimated age 2 Myr), Cone crater (Apollo
14; 25 Myr), and North Ray crater (Apollo 16; 53 Myr), but these estimated ages [91] are mostly derived from
cosmic ray exposure, so are not independent of the GCR fluxes that we seek to determine.
What we really need is to identify materials (e.g. palaeoregoliths) that were once exposed at the lunar surface
for a known duration and which were subsequently covered by overlying material so that they have been
isolated from the space environment ever since. Fortunately, there are at least three geological processes that
will have acted to cover, and therefore preserve, pre-existing surfaces throughout lunar history:
Eruption of low-viscosity basaltic lava flows
Deposition of pyroclastic deposits around sites of explosive volcanism
Emplacement of impact crater ejecta blankets
There are pros and cons associated with all three preservation mechanisms, which we now discuss.
(a) Lava flows
Basaltic lava flows cover ~17% of the lunar surface, mostly on the nearside, and their generally low viscosity
and apparently laminar flow [98,99] suggests that palaeoregolith layers may be preserved beneath or between
them. Once sampled, basalts can be dated to high accuracy using standard radiometric techniques (e.g. [97]), so
the ages of palaeoregoliths trapped between lava flows could in principle be well constrained [5]. However,
most mare basalts appear to have been erupted within the relatively narrow time interval between about 3.8
and 3.3 Gyr [100] (although older lava flows may be buried by younger ones now exposed at the surface), and
there is no evidence for large-scale basaltic volcanism more recently than ~1 Gyr ago. It follows that
palaeoregoliths dating from the last ~1 Gyr, which more or less encompasses the Solar System’s most recent
traverse of the galactic disk, are unlikely to be preserved between lunar lava flows unless younger, smaller scale,
eruptions have occurred. In this context, it is worth noting that small patches of basaltic lavas, apparently
erupted within the last 100 Myr, may have been identified on orbital imagery [101]. However, although these
localities could potentially preserve valuable astronomical records from an important time interval, such young
lavas are unexpected on the basis of our current understanding of lunar geology and the original interpretation
of some of these features has been questioned [102]. Clearly further work to determine whether or not basaltic
lava flows with ages < 1 Gyr exist on the Moon would be desirable.
Probably the main disadvantage of lunar lava flows as preservers of astronomical records within buried regolith
layers is the heating of the regolith substrate by the overlying lava when it is emplaced. Detailed studies of this
process [103] indicate that the uppermost ~20 cm of regolith covered by a 1 m thick lava flow would likely
experience at least partial degassing of implanted volatiles, with thicker lava flows requiring approximately
proportional thicker regolith to provide adequate insulation. This sets a lower limit to the thickness of
palaeoregoliths able to preserve a good record of solar wind and other implanted volatiles. As regolith
production rates are thought to be in the range 1-5 mm Myr-1 (where the lower value is the estimated present-
day rate and the higher value relates to fresh basaltic surfaces ~3.8 Gyr ago [104,105]), it follows that fresh
surfaces would need to be exposed for tens to hundreds of Myr to accumulate regoliths thick enough to shield
implanted volatiles from an overlying lava flow. These long regolith accumulation times would lead to a loss of
temporal resolution for any astrophysical records they contain. However, it is worth mentioning the recent
suggestion [106] that degassing of some mare lavas may result in the formation of metre-thick fragmented
layers, ‘auto-regoliths’, on their surfaces. If present, these would assist in the preservation of volatiles should
they subsequently be covered by younger lavas. We also reiterate that a thick palaeoregolith is less of a necessity
for the preservation of non-volatile records (e.g. heavy nuclei delivered as SN ejecta and some of the less mobile
cosmogenic nuclei produced by GCRs) as these may be preserved within layered basalts lacking interbedded
regoliths (such as those shown in Figure 1).
3
Figure 1. (a) Mare basalt stratigraphy in Mare Serenitatis exposed in the wall of the 16 km diameter impact crater Bessel (21.8°N,
17.9°E; LROC image M135073175R/NASA/GSFC/ASU). (b) Similar layering exposed in walls of a collapse pit in Mare Ingenii on the
farside (36.0°S, 166.1°E LROC image M184810930L/NASA/GSFC/ASU). (c) Metre-scale basalt layers exposed in the wall of Hadley Rille
(26.1°N, 3.6°E) photographed by Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott using a 500mm focal length lens; the outcrop is about 1300m from
the camera (NASA image AS15-89-12104).
We illustrate the concept of palaeoregolith preservation and dating with the aid of a prominent lava flow on the
surface of Mare Imbrium (Figure 2). Here, a younger lava flow overlies older mare basalts, so we would expect
a palaeoregolith layer to be preserved underneath it. This palaeoregolith layer will contain material reaching
the surface of the Moon in the time period between the emplacement of the under- and over-lying lavas. Ideally,
radiometric dating of returned samples would provide these ages, but as none have yet been obtained from this
region we have used standard Crater Size-Frequency Distribution (CSFD) measurements to model the ages of
these flows (for details see Electronic Supplementary Information, ESM). Based on our CSFD measurements,
the underlying basalts have an absolute model age of
3.30!"."$%"."& Gyr, while the over-lying lava flow has an absolute model age of 3.03!".'( %".') Gyr. We therefore hypothesize that sandwiched between these two lava flows there will be a trapped palaeoregolith layer containing records of the solar wind, SCRs, GCRs, and possibly other astronomically valuable records, that reached the surface of the Moon within the ~300 Myr period separating the emplacement of these two lava flows. 3 Although insulation provided by even a thin regolith may be helpful in preserving more volatile GCR products (e.g. 36Cl, 37,39Ar) and in preventing the annealing of radiation damage tracks (we thank one of our referees, Gregory Herzog, for this observation). Figure 2. (a) A prominent lava flow (arrows) on the surface of Mare Imbrium (31.5°N, 338.0°E; Kaguya Terrain Camera/JAXA). Based on CSFD measurements (see ESM), we obtain an absolute model age of 3.03!".$%
&".$' Gyr for this lava flow, and an age of 3.30!"."( &".") Gyr for the older lava flows over which it has flowed, so we expect a ~3 Gyr-old palaeoregolith to be trapped between the two (see text). (b) Schematic illustration of the trapping of a palaeoregolith layer by an overlying lava flow; a paleoregolith such as this would be expected to contain solar wind, GCR, and other astrophysical records that were implanted during its time on the surface, meanwhile a new regolith develops on the younger lava flow and captures more recent astrophysical records. Estimating the extent to which any underlying palaeoregoliths will have been heated by overlying lava flows such as this, as well as drawing up plans for sampling them, requires an estimate of the lava flow thickness. In this case, the CSFD of the underlying surface shows that all measured crater sizes have been resurfaced by the upper lava flow, yielding a minimum flow thickness of ~20m (see ESM). If emplaced as a single lava flow of this thickness the modelling of Rumpf et al [103] would imply that a palaeoregolith below it would need to be several metres thick in order to prevent thermal degassing of solar wind and other trapped volatiles. Such a thick regolith is unlikely to have been generated in the ~300 Myr available given the estimated 1-5 mm/Myr regolith formation rates. On the other hand, there is evidence, for example layers exposed in the wall of Hadley Rille (Figure 1(c)) that some mare basaltic lava flows are built up of multiple thinner (~1 m thick) layers, and if this were the case here it would help reduce the propagation of heat into an underlying regolith [103]; the same would apply if the underlying lava had developed a fragmental ’auto-regolith’ on eruption [106]. In any case, as stressed above, non-volatile and some GCR-produced cosmogenic nuclides are much less susceptible to thermal disturbance and are likely to be preserved even under such a relatively thick lava flow. We stress that we have here merely used these Imbrium lava flows as an example. The comprehensive mapping and dating of mare basalts presented by Hiesinger et al. [100] indicates that there are hundreds of large (50 km in size; see figure 17 of [100]) lava flows on the lunar surface spanning the age range ~4.0 1.0 Gyr, and doubtless many thousands of smaller examples such as that discussed here, all with the potential to preserve underlying palaeoregolith layers with a correspondingly wide range of ages. Moreover, as noted above, stacks of layered lava flows (Figure 1) have the potential to preserve some astronomically important records (e.g. the GCR flux) in the absence of interleaved palaeoregolith layers. That said, unless evidence for small-scale basaltic volcanism within the last ~1 Gyr is confirmed (e.g., [101]), lava flows are unlikely to preserve astronomical records within this timeframe. (b) Pyroclastic deposits In addition to the effusive eruption of low-viscosity mare basalts, lunar magmatic processes have also resulted in occasional explosive or pyroclastic volcanism [107,108]. The resulting pyroclastic deposits are fine-grained units of basaltic glass fragments mantling surfaces around volcanic vents (Figure 3), with sizes ranging from ~10 km2 to ~50,000 km2 and thicknesses estimated at several metres [107,109]. McKay [110] has argued that pyroclastic deposits may be the best preservers of palaeoregoliths owing to their relatively gentle mode of emplacement. Moreover, because the small (typically tens of microns in diameter) basaltic glass fragments that make up the deposits would have mostly cooled and solidified before impacting the surface, the buried regolith would not be subject to the thermal disturbances associated with burial by active lava flows. Figure 3. (a) Dark pyroclastic materials surrounding a presumed volcanic vent in the Schrӧdinger Basin on the lunar farside (75.3°S, 139.2°E; LROC image/NASA/GSFC/ASU). (b) Schematic illustration of a pyroclastic eruption covering a pre-existing regolith to preserve a palaeoregolith underneath (adapted with thanks from LPI CLSE Higher Education Resources). The main disadvantage of pyroclastic deposits in the present context is the ancient, and relatively brief, time periods in which they formed, dating from the main phase of lunar mare volcanism with an estimated age range of 3.8 to 3.2 Gyr [100,110]. While doubtless preserving valuable records of the early Sun, palaeoregoliths buried by currently identified pyroclastic deposits are therefore unlikely to preserve more recent galactic influences on the Solar System. As in the case for basaltic lava flows, a search for more recent pyroclastic deposits would be valuable. (c) Ejecta blankets and impact melt deposits Impact cratering has been continuous throughout lunar history [91], so palaeoregoliths covered by crater ejecta blankets and/or impact melt deposits (Figure 4) have the potential to preserve records from more recent times than those covered by lava flows or pyroclastic deposits. This will be especially important if we seek well- resolved temporal records for the Solar System’s most recent orbit around the Galaxy. Dating the emplacement of crater ejecta blankets could be achieved by sampling and radiometrically dating associated impact melt (e.g. [111-113]. Importantly, such ages would be independent of assumptions regarding the GCR and solar wind fluxes that we wish to reconstruct from the underlying palaoregoliths. If the pre-existing regolith was developed on a basaltic lava flow, this too could be sampled and dated, thereby locating the palaeoregolith sandwiched between lava flow and ejecta blanket in a well-constrained time window. Figure 4. (a) An unnamed fresh 185 m diameter impact crater in Mare Nubium (20.9°S, 350.3°E; LROC image M183588912R: NASA/GSFC/ASU); note the prominent ejecta blanket. (b) Schematic illustration of a crater ejecta blanket covering a pre-existing regolith to preserve a an underlying palaeoregolith. Although impact melt deposits have the potential to preserve palaeoregoliths in the same way as lava flows, they suffer from the same potential disadvantage of thermally disturbing volatile records. The same may be true of palaeoregoliths buried by thick ejecta blankets from large craters which may contain significant volumes of impact-heated materials [114]. On the other hand, the ejecta of small craters is not thought to be at a high temperature when emplaced, so the main uncertainty in their value as preservers of buried palaeoregoliths is the degree to which the pre-existing surface is mechanically disturbed in the process. As the ejecta is mostly emplaced ballistically [115], this is likely to depend on the size of the impact and the distance from it, and may be quite variable. It is also likely to disturb some records more than others, with very surficial records (e.g. solar wind, pick-up ions and SN ejecta) being more disturbed than deeper-lying cosmogenic nuclides produced by GCR interactions. Further work on the mechanical and thermal effects of impact ejecta emplacement would be desirable. 5. Locating and accessing the record Gaining access to these astronomical records will present considerable technical challenges. There are two main aspects: identifying the most promising locations where such records are likely to be preserved, and accessing and sampling these locations. (a) Locating the records We have argued that the astronomical records we seek will be preserved in sub-surface layers, such as buried palaeoregoliths or lava flows, that were once exposed at the lunar surface. Practical considerations suggest that an initial search must be based on surface features accessible to remote-sensing techniques that are indicative of the likely presence of suitable sub-surface deposits. Examples include the geological mapping and dating of surface lava flows (e.g. [100]), pyroclastic deposits (e.g. [107]), and the ejecta blankets of small Copernican-aged craters. In addition, high resolution images of the lunar surface have revealed multiple locations where sub- surface layers out-crop in the walls of rilles, craters, and collapse pits ([99]; Figure 1). Studies of areas where small impact craters have penetrated overlying materials to reveal sub-surface boundaries may also help identify suitable locations [116], as would orbital ground penetrating radar measurements [117]. Ultimately, it will probably be necessary to visit a sub-set of identified localities with robotic or human explorers employing geophysical techniques, such as ground penetrating radar [118,119] or refraction seismology [120], to confirm the existence of suitable sub-surface deposits and to assess the practicalities of sampling them. (b) Accessing the records An optimal architecture for accessing and sampling sub-surface deposits would provide for the following capabilities [50,51]: Ability to deploy equipment at a wide (preferably global) range of locations on the lunar surface Surface mobility, ideally with a range of several tens of km around a given landing site (for example, this would permit access to the boundaries of lava flows having a wide range of ages; see, e.g., the mare basalt maps provided by [100]) Detection of sub-surface palaeoregolith deposits (e.g. using ground penetrating radar or active seismic profiling [119,120]) Access and sampling of outcrops on steep slopes such as crater walls or entrances to collapse pits (e.g. [121]) Drilling from 10s of metres to perhaps ~100 metre depths (for a review of suitable planetary drilling technology see [122,123]) Return of samples to Earth for analysis; the quantity required will depend on the number and types of sites (e.g. palaeoregolith layers) sampled, but based on the analysis of Shearer et al. [124] we estimate this to be ~100 kg for each exploration mission or sortie (which would presumably visit multiple individual localities; compare with the 110 kg returned by the Apollo 17 mission). Although some of these capabilities might be achievable with suitable designed robotic missions (e.g. [121]), as argued elsewhere (e.g. [1,2]) large scale exploratory activities such as these would be enhanced by renewed human operations on Moon (Figure 5). Especially enabling would be the creation of one or more permanently, or semi-permanently, occupied scientific research stations on the lunar surface, as exemplified by the Moon village’ concept advocated by the Director General of the European Space Agency [125]. The creation of such an outpost would offer significant opportunities by providing a scientific infrastructure on the lunar surface, just as human outposts in Antarctica facilitate research activities across multiple scientific disciplines [126-128]. Figure 5. Artist’s concept of astronauts supervising a lunar drilling system. Such a capability would permit access to the sub-surface, for example to extract palaeoregolith samples containing ancient solar wind and GCR records, and is an example of how astrophysics, among other sciences, could benefit from establishing a human-tended research infrastructure on the Moon (image credit: NASA). 6. Conclusion The Moon is likely to preserve a rich historical record of astrophysical processes relevant to understanding the evolution of the Sun and its changing galactic environment. In order to access these records, it will be necessary to collect samples from sub-surface strata that were directly exposed to the space environment at known times in the past and for known durations. Such geological records undoubtedly exist on the Moon but accessing them will require a greatly expanded programme of lunar exploration. Ideally, this will include the eventual establishment of Antarctic-style research stations to support large-scale exploration activities. Such a research infrastructure would also support a wide range of other scientific activities on the Moon [2,4], including, in the present context, observational astronomy and astrophysics. Additional Information Data accessibility. Additional data can be found in the associated electronic supplementary material. Authors’ contributions. IAC conceived the paper and drafted most of the manuscript. KHJ provided most of the expertise relating to solar wind in the lunar regolith and produced the diagrams illustrating palaeoregolith preservation. JHP and HH performed the CSFD measurements of the Imbrium lava flows. All authors provided intellectual content and critically reviewed the whole manuscript prior to submission. Competing interests. We declare that we have no competing interests. Funding. 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We used CraterTools in ArcGIS developed by Kneissl et al. [9] to measure the diameters and frequencies of primary craters and the sizes of the respective counting area. For the analyses of the measured CSFDs, CraterStats II, developed by Michael and Neukum [10], has been utilized. To derive relative and absolute ages from the CSFD measurements, the lunar production (PF) and chronology (CF) functions have to be known. For our study, we used the PF of Neukum et al. [5] which is given by an eleventh-order polynomial: !"#$
%!"#
&
' ($) * (% && %'&$
!"#
$+ && % (1) where Ncum is the cumulative number of craters per km², a0 represents the time over which a certain unit has been exposed to the meteorite bombardment, and D is the crater diameter in km [2,5,11]. We also applied the empirically derived lunar chronology function (CF) of Neukum et al. (2001), which is given by the following equation: ,()*$
- . /012
&
' 3455 6/7-&,
8
9:;
<4= 6 > & ?/ @ ) A4BA 6/7-,> (2) In this equation, t is the crater accumulation time (crater retention age) in Ga, and Ncum is again the cumulative number of craters per km². In order to achieve reliable relative and absolute model ages, we used spectrally, topographically, and morphologically homogenous counting areas and excluded areas with secondary crater clusters [e.g. 12-17]. To determine relative ages of the mapped geologic units, we calculated the sizes of the count areas, counted all craters apart from secondary and endogenic craters, measured their diameters measured, and fitted the data with the PF of Neukum et al. [5]. The derived crater frequency of craters larger or equal 1 km were linked to the CF of Neukum et al. [5] to obtain absolute model ages (AMAs). We used Poisson statistics, introduced by Michael at al. [18], to fit the CSFDs and to derive AMAs. This approach uses a probability density function, which directly links the chronology function with the measured crater density of the surface. To evaluate our CSFD measurements we used the randomness analyses described by Michael et al. [19]. This method determines the level of clustering by measuring the mean 2nd-closest neighbor distances (M2CND) of every used crater size bin. 1.2 Flow Thickness The flow thickness can be estimated based on the rim height of flooded or partly flooded impact craters (e.g., Hiesinger et al. [20]). The relation between the rim height and the crater diameter for simple craters < 15 km is given by Pike [13]: Re = 0.036 Dr 1.014 (3) where Re is the rim height (km) and Dr is the crater diameter (km). 2 Results We derived absolute model ages for two lava flows within the Imbrium basin (see Figure 2 of the main paper). The two flows are separated by a distinct morphologic boundary. Based on stratigraphic observations on Kaguya images the topographically higher flow seems to have overflown the lower flow. However, as only the upper flow shows a clear flow front, and spectral differences are low, the overflown surface cannot be separated into individual lava flows. Thus, the relative stratigraphic relationship between the upper and the lower flow could be more complex than visible with the available data sets. To determine the relative and absolute age difference of the two flows we performed CSFD measurements of the two flows, respectively. The counting area locations of these measurements are shown in Supplementary Figure 1. Based on our CSFD measurements, the lower flow shows an AMA of 3.3 +0.04/-0.05 Ga (Supplementary Figure 2). The upper flow shows an AMA of 3.03 +0.12/-0.17 Ga (Supplementary Figure 3) being ~300 Ma younger than the lower flow. Since the error bars of both AMAs are relatively small, this age difference seems to be reliable. The CSFD of the lower flow shows that all measured crater sizes have been resurfaced by the upper flow. The largest measured crater shows a diameter of 473 m and allows us to estimate the minimum flow thickness of the upper flow. Based on the rim height / crater diameter relation for lunar simple craters determined by Pike [13] this translates into a minimum flow thickness of 18.6 m. Supplementary Figure 1: Counting areas of the low (left) and the upper (right) flow in blue. The measured craters are marked in red. Base map is the 10 m/pixel Kaguya Terrain Camera (TC) mosaic (Image centre at 32.3°N and 22.1° W). Supplementary Figure 2. CSFD analysis of the lower lava flow. (a) Summary plot of the M2CND randomness analyses plotted in standard deviations (!), above or below the Monte Carlo-derived mean; as most of the crater size bins are between +1 and -1 standard deviations, the influence of clustering due to secondary cratering is negligible. (b) CSFDs of the lower flow, shown in a differential plot; the calculated AMA (µ) and error bars come along with a plot of the uncertainty as a probability density function, marked at the 50 and 50 ±34 percentiles. Supplementary Figure 3. CSFD analysis of the upper lava flow. (a) Summary plot of the M2CND randomness analyses plotted in standard deviations (!), above or below the Monte Carlo-derived mean; as most of the crater size bins are between +1 and -1 standard deviations, the influence of clustering due to secondary cratering is negligible. (b) CSFDs of the upper flow, shown in a differential plot; the calculated AMA (µ) and error bars come along with a plot of the uncertainty as a probability density function, marked at the 50 and 50 ±34 percentiles. References 1. Crater Analysis Techniques Working Group (Arvidson, R.E., Boyce, J., Chapman, C.R., Cintala, M.J., Fulchignoni, M., Moore, H., Neukum, G., Schultz, P., Soderblom, L., Strom, R., Woronow, A., Young, R.), 1979. 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SolARs imprinted on the long dormant Moon can provide critical data about solar behavior over geological time that is vital to building a reliable Climate Change model for Earth [2]. HLT's secondary objective is observation and scientific exploration of the lunar pit crater, through utilization of the rover's onboard scientific payloads. ... ... HLT meets Objective 4 of the Artemis Science Plan, "Revealing the Records of the Ancient Sun and Our Astronomical Environment", by obtaining SolAR data from the lunar surface. As the lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years, SolARs have accumulated in regolith and preserved paleoregolith over this timeframe [2]. As described by Crawford et al. [2], "records will be preserved in subsurface layers, such as buried palaeoregoliths or lava flows, that were once exposed at the lunar surface". ... ... As the lunar surface has been exposed to the space environment for billions of years, SolARs have accumulated in regolith and preserved paleoregolith over this timeframe [2]. As described by Crawford et al. [2], "records will be preserved in subsurface layers, such as buried palaeoregoliths or lava flows, that were once exposed at the lunar surface". During the HLT mission, Artemis III crew obtain samples of sub-surface layers, which could provide an undisturbed solar record that greatly surpasses the record we can obtain on Earth. ... Conference Paper Full-text available Helios-Lune Tranquillitas (HLT) is a proposal for a commercial-government partnership Artemis III lunar exploration mission to the Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater. HLT has a primary mission objective of obtaining samples to be returned to Earth for analysis from two locations within the crater: the sunlit wall and talus pile. The samples will be collected using a tailored, mission specific version of the Axel Rover (Axel) [1], developed to rappel into a lunar pit. Axel is controlled by Artemis lll crew using real-time telerobotic systems from the cabin of the HLT's pressurized electric rover (ROPE). The unique mission location and sampling strategy allows for solar activity record (SolAR) data to be analyzed from the sample layers upon return to Earth. SolARs imprinted on the long dormant Moon can provide critical data about solar behavior over geological time that is vital to building a reliable Climate Change model for Earth [2]. HLT's secondary objective is observation and scientific exploration of the lunar pit crater, through utilization of the rover's onboard scientific payloads. The mission overview is as follows: the HLT lunar lander touches down on the moon's surface at a safe distance from the Tranquillitatis pit. Once landed, ROPE is deployed and is driven by the crew from the landing site to a set location near the rim of the pit crater. On arrival, Axel is readied by being tethered to ROPE and thereafter begins to rappel into the crater, clearing debris on its downward descent. Once descent is complete, observation and experimentation through use of Axel's scientific payloads, including sampling of the talus pile commence. When this stage is complete, Axel ascends on the debris-cleared path towards the lunar surface, pausing at specified intervals to collect the remaining pit wall samples by drilling. The mission is designed to align with the Artemis program's objectives as the Tranquillitatis pit is a prime location for initial study aimed at revealing ancient SolAR data as well as lava studies that provide insight into past lunar planetary processes. HLT is a Commercial Human Space Exploration (CHASE) and government partnership mission. Thus, all stages of mission development can be open to company applications through worldwide tender, promoting international scientific collaboration and cooperation. Once obtained, data from the mission and results from sample analysis can be sold to public and private space sector companies, educational institutions, and other interested parties. ... The Earth's record of the ancient cosmic radiation environment has largely been erased by weathering and geological processes. The Moon has never been affected by plate tectonics or processing by a hydrosphere or biosphere, so the record of these astronomical phenomena may be better preserved in lunar rocks than on Earth (Crawford et al., , 2021Fagents et al., 2010;McKay et al., 1991;Spudis, 1996). Moreover, much of the low-energy space radiation flux (e.g., solar wind and solar cosmic ray [SCR] flux) does not reach the Earth's surface, so investigation via the analysis of terrestrial geological samples is not possible. ... ... In contrast, the Moon lacks an atmosphere and currently has no appreciable magnetic field (Mighani et al., 2020), so much of the lunar surface experiences direct exposure to the prevailing high-and low-energy space radiation environment (Omidi et al., 2019). It has, thus, been hypothesized that the regolith cover of the Moon's surface preserves a record of astronomical phenomena from more than 4 billion years of solar system history (e.g., Crawford et al., 2007Crawford et al., , 2021McKay et al., 1991;Spudis, 1996). This record has the potential to act as a proxy for the space exposure of the whole Earth-Moon system through time (Crawford et al., 2007). ... ... This study builds upon the previous petrological characterization of 10 basalt fragments (derived from Apollo 12 soils 12003 and 12030) and three fragments of a reference crystalline rock (derived from hand specimen sample 12022) by Alexander et al. (2014) and Snape et al. (2014). Our work forms a part of a broader investigation, exploring the potential for using small basalt fragments derived from lunar soil samples to aid our understanding of lunar regolith evolution and the Moon's interaction with the space environment (i.e., galactic history, solar history, delivery of meteoritic material) through time (Crawford et al., 2021;Joy et al., 2016;McKay et al., 1991;Spudis, 1996). In addition, most lunar basalt rocks date from a significant period of lunar geological history (i.e., the infilling of mare regions). ... Article Full-text available We report the concentrations and isotope ratios of light noble gases (He, Ne, Ar) in 10 small basalt fragments derived from lunar regolith soils at the Apollo 12 landing site. We use cosmic ray exposure (CRE) and shielding condition histories to consider their geological context. We have devised a method of using cosmogenic Ne isotopes to partition the CRE history of each sample into two stages: a duration of “deep” burial (shielding of 5–500 g cm−2) and a duration of near‐surface exposure (shielding of 0 g cm−2). Three samples show evidence of measurable exposure at the lunar surface (durations of between 6 ± 2 and 7 ± 2 Myr). The remaining seven samples show evidence of a surface residence duration of less than a few hundred thousand years prior to collection. One sample records a single‐stage CRE age range of between 516 ± 36 and 1139 ± 121 Myr, within 0–5 g cm−2 of the lunar surface. This is consistent with derivation from ballistic sedimentation (i.e., local regolith reworking) during the Copernicus crater formation impact at ~800 Myr. The remaining samples show CRE age clusters around 124 ± 11 Myr and 188 ± 15 Myr. We infer that local impacts, including Surveyor crater (180–240 Ma) and Head crater (144 Ma), may have brought these samples to depths where the cosmic ray flux was intense enough to produce measurable cosmogenic Ne isotopes. More recent small impacts that formed unnamed craters may have exhumed these samples from their deep shielding conditions to the surface (i.e., ~0–5 g cm−2) prior to collection from the lunar surface during the Apollo 12 mission. ... Indeed in both cases, these process may actually serve to help highlight and constrain the chronological influence of the Sun in specific periods of time. For example, in the case of Dependent on assumption of constant solar wind particle flux Solar wind flux rate -isotopes of helium-3, neon-20 and argon-36 volcanism, lava flows from episodic volcanism may have essentially sealed off layers of the regolith from further interaction with the Sun [14] that leaves these overlaid portions of 'paleoregolith' as invaluable snapshots into time periods preceding the event in which they were trapped (see figure 1 for an example from [9]). Similarly, while impacts of high enough energy may in some cases modify or eliminate signatures of interest in specific regions, the impact process also drives the overturning and stratification of the regolith [17,7] -a process which creates a chronological record of surface interactions with the Sun with depth. ... ... Examples of potential paleoregolith sites on the Moon and the process by which paleoregoliths are sealed off and may provide a valuable record of past solar interactions with the lunar surface (from[9]). ... Preprint Full-text available The Heliophysics Decadal survey should embrace the coming opportunity of sustained lunar surface exploration and facilitate cross-disciplinary efforts to unlock the secrets of the Sun that are held by the lunar surface. With planned Artemis efforts that include prioritization of samples of high interest and protocols for sample handling and analysis, input into the relevant solar signatures that would be most diagnostic and how best to obtain/retain them is incredibly important. Finally, leveraging the theoretical expertise of the two communities in ways that bring them together, such as through dedicated conferences and workshops, will let the two communities help each other learn more than they could alone. ... The unique mission location and sampling strategy allows for solar activity record (SAR) data to be analyzed from the sample layers upon return to Earth. SAR imprinted on the long dormant Moon can provide critical data about solar behavior over geological time that is vital to building a reliable Climate Change model for Earth (Crawford, 2021). HLT's secondary objective is observation and scientific exploration of the lunar pit crater, through utilization of the rover's onboard scientific payloads including wide and narrow lens cameras, ground penetrating radar, a spectrometer and three-dimensional laser scanning capabilities. ... Conference Paper Full-text available In the 2021 Fall term, the ASTE Studio focused creative efforts on how commercial human spaceflight in the United States could catalyze space activity around the globe and steer the future of human spaceflight. With an eye on NASA's Gateway and Artemis projects, the CHASE project cast the net wide, to seek out synergies and collaborations sans policy limitations. By starting to explore the future of governmental and commercial activities in low Earth orbit, on the International Space Station, and evolving outward to encompass cislunar space and our Moon, the USC CHASE project imagined and created potential concepts that we feel are worthy of further investigation. Topics explored included Commercially focused Utilization of the International Space Station, Uses of a Human-tended Geostationary Space Station, Evolution and Uses of an Advanced Cislunar Communications Infrastructure, Importance of Establishing a sturdy Earth-Moon Logistics Channel to support 21 st century cislunar traffic and a permanent human lunar surface presence. A scientific exploration mission for the Artemis lll crew to retrieve solar activity records to help build a much more complete solar behavior model over geologic time that can inform Climate Change on Earth and also explore the interior of a lunar lava tube, a concept for a Robot scout assistant rover for lunar surface crew in EVA, and Crew safety and rescue Infrastructure establishment before commencing Artemis missions that can also be used in case anomalies arise are proposed as well as the evolution of nuclear power systems for lunar applications. Several American space companies are sprouting that continue to broaden human spaceflight capability and expand CHASE allied engineering capacity needed to grow and mature this fully homegrown space industry ecology. Powered by the plummeting costs of components and methods like advanced additive manufacturing, a wide stable of launchers and private spacecraft are entering the space activity domain once considered the monopoly of governments. Commerce is the lifeblood of modern civilization. Healthy competition and agility, ingenuity and innovation are the drivers of economics and profit in this sector. We must continue to encourage real space commerce, especially human space activity, beyond the NASA vendor-buyer model. Fundamental economic sense drives all successful commerce. A sustainable business model requires a profit motive. [Profit = Revenue-Cost] is a fundamental formula for all sensible commerce. Monitoring and minimizing environmental impact is a prime concern in the fragile vacuum and weightlessness of Space. All these CHASE related activities, both domestic and around the globe bode well for the US to remain the beacon of the free world and at the forefront of space activity. Human space activity in particular, makes us the nexus for global cooperation and collaboration. That is a good sign for 21st century civilization, progressing step-by-step to build a peaceful, equitable and glorious future for humanity in space and on Earth. Synopses of visions created in the CHASE concept studio are presented. Recommendations are made. Welcome to USC ASTE527 2021 CHASE Graduate Space Concept Synthesis Studio dear colleagues, where architectural and engineering minds work together to imagine the "what can be" of human spaceflight. ... Many scientists have viewed the lunar surface as a record for various astronomical phenomena. (Crawford et al., 2021) mention that the lunar surface has evidence of astronomical importance, and that the Moon may be thought of as a "telescope" that has been monitoring and recording astronomical phenomena since it first established a solid surface 4.5 billion years ago. The Moon's surface is unaffected by the three principal factors that modify terrestrial surfaces: atmosphere, water, and life. ... Thesis Sophisticated human and robotic lunar missions are being developed by international collaborations of the USA, Canada, EU, India, China, Japan etc. for a long-term human presence on the Moon. These lunar missions require prototype testing of rovers and other hardware on the earth to successfully interact with the lunar surface. This laboratory testing requires various simulant (terrestrial soil mimicking one or more lunar regolith characteristics) testbeds. Actual lunar soil is too pristine and scarce to be used for destructive testing. Hence, simulants have been developed by research institutions, space research organizations, or commercial manufacturers to cater to a wide range of applications. The geotechnical engineering applications of simulants are of paramount importance for the testing of in-situ hardware prototypes and lunar rovers. Although there has been significant development of different simulants, in general, the lunar simulants developed in the last few years are under-characterized or uncharacterized from a geotechnical engineering perspective. This research study aims to reduce the gap with an effective geotechnical characterization of seven lunar simulants interpreted with up-to-date soil mechanics theory. Additionally, benchmark terrestrial soils and a Martian simulant (MMS-1) were also tested and a comparison between the lunar simulants and these soils was done to evaluate the possible use of abundantly available soils, as a potential feedstock or raw material to develop lunar simulants. The selected lunar simulants include a mix of lunar mare and lunar highland simulants (CAS-1, EAC-1, OPRL2N, LMS-1, LHS-1, OPRH2N, OB-1A) and they were tested for basic geotechnical properties, stress-strain relationships, and dynamic properties. Resonant column testing of lunar simulants is not known to have been performed before. The experimental regime consisted of tests at relatively low pressures, different relative densities, and with 100% dry conditions. The lunar simulants are finer compared to terrestrial soils. Several properties (PSD, shear strength, Cc) of tested lunar simulants fall within the range of the values of lunar regolith. The mineralogy, particle size distribution, and particle shapes of the materials were found to have a considerable influence on the geotechnical properties of the lunar simulants. The general trends of stress-strain relationships and dynamic properties follow those of terrestrial soils. However, the unique mineralogical components of basalt, anorthosites, plagioclase feldspar etc. in the lunar simulants compared to terrestrial soils tend to give higher values of several parameters (peak friction angle, shear wave velocity, etc.) compared to terrestrial soils. The results when viewed alongside the data of terrestrial soils suggest that a judicious choice of benchmark terrestrial soils might allow the development of lunar simulants with an enhanced fidelity to lunar regolith. In addition, the crushed nature of many of these lunar simulants needs to be investigated in further detail given how significantly the geotechnical properties seem to be influenced by this aspect of the simulants. ... CE-4 LPR provides a unique opportunity to observe ancient lunar surfaces ("paleo-surfaces") hidden by the ubiquitous regolith layer (ranging from 7 to 20 m, depending on location) which could, as in this case, differ substantially from the visible interface. Also, the location of a paleo-surface could represent a target for a future exploration mission trying to study the space environment, like solar activity levels, at the time of burial (Crawford et al., 2021). ... Article Full-text available Plain Language Summary The absence of an atmosphere and substantial resurfacing events in the last couple of billion years means that the Moon's surface has journeyed through space exposed to anything that travels through it and, unlike the Earth, most of these “encounters” have left a mark. Thus, the good news for scientists is that the lunar surface represents a record of astrophysical phenomena within the Solar System that is no longer available on its larger companion: our planet. However, the larger impacts have indeed contributed to modify its surface hiding some of its old terrains. The Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) onboard Chang'e‐4 (CE‐4) rover (Yutu‐2) can see below the surface as it makes its way across the lunar ground, revealing the ancient lunar surface (paleo‐surface) at the depth of ∼12 m. It has mapped its elevation profile, which now we can see that it has been substantially modified following its formation some 3.1 billion years ago. Notably, the LPR has discovered a 270 m sized buried crater corresponding to a large ground depression seen on the surface, a first achievement for lunar radar sounding. Conference Paper View Video Presentation: https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2022-4365.vid In the 2021 Fall term, the ASTE Studio focused creative efforts on how commercial human spaceflight in the United States could catalyze space activity around the globe and steer the future of human spaceflight. With an eye on NASA’s Gateway and Artemis projects, the CHASE project cast the net wide, to seek out synergies and collaborations sans policy limitations. By starting to explore the future of governmental and commercial activities in low Earth orbit, on the International Space Station, and evolving outward to encompass cislunar space and our Moon, the USC CHASE project imagined and created potential concepts that we feel are worthy of further investigation. Topics explored included commercially focused utilization of the International Space Station, Uses of a Human-tended Geostationary Space Station, Evolution and Uses of an Advanced Cislunar Communications Infrastructure, Importance of Establishing a sturdy Earth-Moon Logistics Channel to support 21st century cislunar traffic and a permanent human lunar surface presence. A scientific exploration mission for the Artemis lll crew to retrieve solar activity records to help build a much more complete solar behavior model over geologic time that can inform Climate Change on Earth and also explore the interior of a lunar lava tube, a concept for a Robot scout assistant rover for lunar surface crew in EVA, and Crew safety and rescue Infrastructure establishment before commencing Artemis missions that can also be used in case anomalies arise are proposed as well as the evolution of nuclear power systems for lunar applications. Several American space companies are sprouting that continue to broaden human spaceflight capability and expand CHASE allied engineering capacity needed to grow and mature this fully homegrown space industry ecology. Powered by the plummeting costs of components and methods like advanced additive manufacturing, a wide stable of launchers and private spacecraft are entering the space activity domain once considered the monopoly of governments. Commerce is the lifeblood of modern civilization. Healthy competition and agility, ingenuity and innovation are the drivers of economics and profit in this sector. We must continue to encourage real space commerce, especially human space activity, beyond the NASA vendor-buyer model. Fundamental economic sense drives all successful commerce. A sustainable business model requires a profit motive. [Profit = Revenue - Cost] is a fundamental formula for all sensible commerce. Monitoring and minimizing environmental impact is a prime concern in the fragile vacuum and weightlessness of Space. All these CHASE related activities, both domestic and around the globe bode well for the US to remain the beacon of the free world and at the forefront of space activity. Human space activity in particular, makes us the nexus for global cooperation and collaboration. That is a good sign for 21st century civilization, progressing step-by-step to build a peaceful, equitable and glorious future for humanity in space and on Earth. Synopses of visions created in the CHASE concept studio are presented. Recommendations are made for alternative architectures and mission profiles for both Gateway and Artemis programs. 2021 CHASE project slides may be accessed at : ASTE 527 Home (google.com) Article Full-text available Context. The lunar penetrating radar (LPR) carried by the Yutu-2 rover performed the first in situ measurement of the subsurface structure and physical properties of the subsurface materials on the far side of the Moon. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the formation and evolution of the lunar surface. Aims. This paper aims to quantitatively estimate the heterogeneity of the lunar regolith using the high-frequency Yutu-2 radar observation and constrain the modeling parameters (e.g., autocorrelation length) on a radar simulation. Methods. The heterogeneity of the lunar regolith was quantified by comparing the simulation and observation acquired by the high-frequency Yutu-2 radar within the first 17 lunar days after its landing. The radar simulation was determined by the numerical calculation of the stochastic regolith model. The change in the autocorrelation length to the modeling was derived by calculating the coarseness of the model. Results. The disturbance range of the lunar regolith with a thickness of ~12 m at the Chang’E-4 landing site is constrained to be ~0.20 ± 0.06 m, indicating a high self-similarity. The stochastic model’s spatial disturbance is controlled by the autocorrelation length and is also scaled by the model size, and the radar scattering echo strength decreases with the increase in autocorrelation length. Conclusions. We conclude that the heterogeneity of lunar regolith is positively related to the geological age. The application of the disturbance range at the decimeter scale might provide a valuable reference to assist in interpreting the radar observation data of the Moon (e.g., Arecibo radar, Min-SAR and Mini-RF, and in situ LPR). Conference Paper Full-text available This 2020 USC TWINS project, following the 2018 ADAM Project and the 2019 MAXIM, continues to weave a narrative that wishes humanity to return to the Moon at the earliest, to retire the known risks, gain the vital experience needed to push on to Mars and settle other worlds. Hard data is what good engineers depend on to build and evolve reliable systems. Narrative, the art of storytelling, is at least as important to the global public, as it to the exploration community. In the 2019 MAXIM Project we pushed the human emotion button for creating a wholesome narrative of preserving the heritage of Apollo for posterity, while reminding the world what our nation accomplished on an extra-terrestrial surface five decades ago, and also chose to pay homage and evoke nostalgia among the heroes of the Apollo program. Leveraging what has been accomplished to date, the 2020 USC ARTEMIS:TWINS project offers concepts for both the Commercial Lunar Payload Service(CLPS) precursory missions for ARTEMIS and some alternative options for the early missions of the lunar GATEWAY project to bring back hard data that is vital for evolving safe and reliable systems for interplanetary transit crew and vehicles. In this 2020 CLPS+GEMINI TWINS project we depict both some precursory and early human spaceflight missions that could enrich and breathe dynamism and excitement into the narrative of both the NASA CLPS effort and the GATEWAY architecture. It seems possible to meet both the national and the international objectives with ARTEMIS and GATEWAY. Article Cosmic ray exposure (CRE) ages of rocks that were ejected by the impacts that created Cone and North Ray craters provide two crucial calibration points at <100 Ma for the lunar cratering chronology function, which relates the crater density of geological units on the Moon to their absolute age. To reassess the formation ages of these two craters, we determine here the accumulated abundances of “cosmogenic” noble gas nuclides (³Hecosm, ²¹Necosm, ³⁸Arcosm), as well as the corresponding CRE ages, in six Apollo 14 rocks (i.e., one breccia and five basalts) and two Apollo 16 anorthosites that were collected near the rims of Cone and North Ray craters, respectively. Although noble gas concentrations allow CRE ages to be derived, the calculated ²¹Ne and ³⁸Ar exposure ages of a given sample cover a significant range of values because published empirical or theoretical production rates of cosmogenic nuclides are highly variable. Nonetheless, it is evident that mare basalts 14053 and 14072 as well as breccia 14068, which were collected near the rim of Cone crater, were exposed at the lunar surface more recently than the three KREEP basalts (14073, 14077, 14078) collected farther away. The ³⁸Ar exposure ages of anorthosites 67075 and 67955 from North Ray crater slightly exceed those of samples 14053, 14068, and 14072. These results confirm that Cone crater is younger than North Ray crater. However, the formation ages of Cone and North Ray craters have larger uncertainties than previously acknowledged. This implies that the uncertainties of noble gas exposure ages should be taken into account when remotely dating young surfaces on the Moon and on other planetary bodies in the solar system. Article Full-text available Plain Language Summary Could gas emitted from volcanic eruptions during the most intense and voluminous period of lunar mare volcanism produce a temporary lunar atmosphere? Could the presence of such an atmosphere enable volatiles to reach the cold traps in the permanently shadowed regions at the lunar poles? We use information from lunar geology and sample analyses to predict the number of eruptions with time, the volume of individual eruptions, the rates of volcanic gas release during each eruption, and the time between eruptions. We find that only under rare circumstances could a single eruption or two eruptions closely spaced in time release enough gas to create a transient atmosphere with a pressure as large as ~0.5 Pa. Furthermore, it is difficult to sustain such an atmosphere for more than a few thousand years. These results suggest that volcanically produced atmospheres are inefficient source mechanisms for delivery of volatiles to form deposits in permanently shadowed polar regions of the Moon; this favors volatile‐rich impactors as the major source of polar ice. Article Full-text available Lunar mare regolith is traditionally thought to have formed by impact bombardment of newly emplaced coherent solidified basaltic lava. We use new models for initial emplacement of basalt magma to predict and map out thicknesses, surface topographies and internal structures of the fresh lava flows, and pyroclastic deposits that form the lunar mare regolith parent rock, or protolith. The range of basaltic eruption types produce widely varying initial conditions for regolith protolith, including (1) autoregolith, a fragmental meter‐thick surface deposit that forms upon eruption and mimics impact‐generated regolith in physical properties, (2) lava flows with significant near‐surface vesicularity and macroporosity, (3) magmatic foams, and (4) dense, vesicle‐poor flows. Each protolith has important implications for the subsequent growth, maturation, and regional variability of regolith deposits, suggesting wide spatial variations in the properties and thickness of regolith of similar age. Regolith may thus provide key insights into mare basalt protolith and its mode of emplacement. Article Full-text available Paleodetectors are a proposed experimental technique in which one would search for traces of recoiling nuclei in ancient minerals. Natural minerals on Earth are as old as O(1) Gyr and, in many minerals, the damage tracks left by recoiling nuclei are also preserved for timescales long compared to 1 Gyr once created. Thus, even reading out relatively small target samples of order 100 g, paleodetectors would allow one to search for very rare events thanks to the large exposure, ϵ∼100 g Gyr=105 t yr. Here, we explore the potential of paleodetectors to measure nuclear recoils induced by neutrinos from Galactic core collapse supernovae. We find that they would not only allow for a direct measurement of the average core collapse supernova rate in the Milky Way, but would also contain information about the time dependence of the local supernova rate over the past ∼1 Gyr. Since the supernova rate is thought to be directly proportional to the star formation rate, such a measurement would provide a determination of the local star formation history. We investigate the sensitivity of paleodetectors to both a smooth time evolution and an enhancement of the core collapse supernova rate on relatively short timescales, as would be expected for a starburst period in the local group. Article Full-text available On 3 January 2019, China’s Chang’E-4 (CE-4) successfully landed on the eastern floor of Von Kármán crater within the South Pole–Aitken Basin, becoming the first spacecraft in history to land on the Moon’s farside. Here, we report the observations made by the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) onboard the Yutu-2 rover during the first two lunar days. We found a signal penetration at the CE-4 landing site that is much greater than that at the CE-3 site. The CE-4 LPR images provide clear information about the structure of the subsurface, which is primarily made of low-loss, highly porous, granular materials with embedded boulders of different sizes; the images also indicate that the top of the mare basal layer should be deeper than 40 m. These results represent the first high-resolution image of a lunar ejecta sequence ever produced and the first direct measurement of its thickness and internal architecture. Article Full-text available Magnetic measurements of the lunar crust and Apollo samples indicate that the Moon generated a dynamo magnetic field lasting from at least 4.2 until <2.5 billion years (Ga) ago. However, it has been unclear when the dynamo ceased. Here, we report paleomagnetic and ⁴⁰ Ar/ ³⁹ Ar studies showing that two lunar breccias cooled in a near-zero magnetic field (<0.1 μT) at 0.44 ± 0.01 and 0.91 ± 0.11 Ga ago, respectively. Combined with previous paleointensity estimates, this indicates that the lunar dynamo likely ceased sometime between ~1.92 and ~0.80 Ga ago. The protracted lifetime of the lunar magnetic field indicates that the late dynamo was likely powered by crystallization of the lunar core. Article Full-text available The Moon is the only planetary body other than the Earth for which samples have been collected in situ by humans and robotic missions and returned to Earth. Scientific investigations of the first lunar samples returned by the Apollo 11 astronauts 50 years ago transformed the way we think most planetary bodies form and evolve. Identification of anorthositic clasts in Apollo 11 samples led to the formulation of the magma ocean concept, and by extension the idea that the Moon experienced large-scale melting and differentiation. This concept of magma oceans would soon be applied to other terrestrial planets and large asteroidal bodies. Dating of basaltic fragments returned from the Moon also showed that a relatively small planetary body could sustain volcanic activity for more than a billion years after its formation. Finally, studies of the lunar regolith showed that in addition to containing a treasure trove of the Moon’s history, it also provided us with a rich archive of the past 4.5 billion years of evolution of the inner Solar System. Further investigations of samples returned from the Moon over the past five decades led to many additional discoveries, but also raised new and fundamental questions that are difficult to address with currently available samples, such as those related to the age of the Moon, duration of lunar volcanism, the lunar paleomagnetic field and its intensity, and the record on the Moon of the bombardment history during the first billion years of evolution of the Solar System. In this contribution, we review the information we currently have on some of the key science questions related to the Moon and discuss how future sample-return missions could help address important knowledge gaps. Article Giant molecular clouds (GMCs) are believed to affect the biospheres of planets as their host star passes through them. We simulate the trajectories of stars and GMCs in the Galaxy and determine how often stars pass through GMCs. We find a strong decreasing dependence with Galactocentric radius, and with the velocity perpendicular to the Galactic plane, V\mathrm{ z}$. The XY-component of the kinematic heating of stars was shown to not affect the GMC hit rate, unlike the Z-dependence (V$\mathrm{ z}$) implies that stars hit fewer GMCs as they age. GMCs are locations of star formation, therefore we also determine how often stars pass near supernovae. For the supernovae the decrease with V$\mathrm{ z}\$ is steeper as how fast the star passes through the GMC determines the probability of a supernova encounter. We then integrate a set of Sun-like trajectories to see the implications for the Sun. We find that the Sun hits 1.6 ± 1.3 GMCs per Gyr which results in 1.5 ± 1.1 or (with correction for clustering) 0.8 ± 0.6 supernova closer than 10 pc per Gyr. The different the supernova frequencies are from whether one considers multiple supernovae per GMC crossing (few Myr) as separate events. We then discuss the effect of the GMC hits on the Oort cloud, and the Earth’s climate due to accretion, we also discuss the records of distant supernova. Finally, we determine Galactic Habitable Zone using our model. For the thin disc, we find it to lie between 5.8 and 8.7 kpc and for the thick disc to lie between 4.5 and 7.7 kpc.
Article
There is now solid experimental evidence of at least one supernova explosion within 100 pc of Earth within the last few million years, from measurements of the short-lived isotope ⁶⁰Fe in widespread deep-ocean samples, as well as in the lunar regolith and cosmic rays. This is the first established example of a specific dated astrophysical event outside the Solar System having a measurable impact on the Earth, offering new probes of stellar evolution, nuclear astrophysics, the astrophysics of the solar neighborhood, cosmic-ray sources and acceleration, multi-messenger astronomy, and astrobiology. Interdisciplinary connections reach broadly to include heliophysics, geology, and evolutionary biology. Objectives for the future include pinning down the nature and location of the established near-Earth supernova explosions, seeking evidence for others, and searching for other short-lived isotopes such as ²⁶Al and ²⁴⁴Pu. The unique information provided by geological and lunar detections of radioactive ⁶⁰Fe to assess nearby supernova explosions make now a compelling time for the astronomy community to advocate for supporting multi-disciplinary, cross-cutting research programs.
Article
The lunar regolith provides a temporal archive of the evolution of the Moon and inner Solar System over the last ∼4 billion years. During this time, noble gases have been trapped and produced within soils and rocks at the lunar surface. These noble gas concentrations can be used to unravel the history of lunar material and shed light on processes that have evolved the surface of the Moon through time. We have collected published noble gas data for a range of lunar samples including soils, regolith breccias, crystalline (e.g., mare basalts, anorthosite) and impact-melt rocks. The compilation includes noble gas concentrations and isotope ratios for He, Ne, Ar, Kr and Xe; trapped, cosmogenic and radiogenic isotopes; and cosmic ray exposure ages. We summarise the significance of these data, which can be used as a baseline for expected noble gas concentrations in a range of lunar samples, and provide a framework for future in situ noble gas measurements on the lunar surface.